In hindsight, it’s easy to say that Justin Smoak shouldn’t have tried to go from first base to third on a single to center field as he was easily gunned down sliding into third.
When it cost the Tacoma Rainiers a run in a game where such a commodity was scarce, judgment becomes even easier.
Smoak’s baserunning error in the third inning Tuesday highlighted a night when the Rainiers had plenty of opportunities but never capitalized as they were shut out, 2-0, by the New Orleans Zephyrs at Cheney Stadium.
With Smoak at first and Guillermo Quiroz at second in the third inning, Carlos Peguero singled to center field. Smoak thought Zephyrs center fielder Kevin Mattison would try to gun Quiroz down at home.
Instead, Mattison threw to third, and a sliding Smoak was tagged out for the final out of the inning just before Quiroz could cross the plate.
“I can sit here after the fact and say I would have liked him to stay at second, but he was being aggressive,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. “It happened; you move on.”
It certainly wasn’t Tacoma’s only opportunity to push runs across the board against the top pitching staff in the Pacific Coast League. The Rainiers were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
“We had some opportunities; we just didn’t cash in,” Brown said. “They made some nice plays. If they don’t make some of those plays, it is a different ball game.”
If the Rainiers’ bats were struggling, pitcher Andrew Carraway wasn’t. He shut out the Zephyrs for five innings before being pulled in his second start since coming off the disabled list. David Pauley continued it from there.
New Orleans finally broke the ice in the eighth inning.
Former Rainier Jeff Dominguez led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to third on Carlos Truinfel’s throwing error. He then scored on a suicide squeeze.
After making the baserunning mistake, Smoak almost responded with his first home run since his demotion to the Rainiers on July 24. But he again had to deal with Mattison, who ran, leaped, reached and snagged Smoak’s fifth-inning shot at the top of the wall in right-center field to rob Smoak of a possible two-run homer – or at least extra bases.
Alex Liddi did not retag second base on his way back to first on the play and was called out to cap the unconventional 8-3-6 double play.
The Zephyrs pushed one more run across in the ninth on Dominguez’s RBI double to the gap in left field. Rob Brantly tried to score from first, but left fielder Liddi gunned him down at home to end the threat.
The Rainiers were held scoreless for the first time since their 2-0 loss against Tucson on July 30. … Steve Garrison was optioned to Double-A Jackson before the game to make room on the roster for Erasmo Ramirez, who recently came off the DL.
Hector Noesi (0-3, 8.17 ERA) takes the mound for the Rainiers today against Brad Hand (8-6). Game time is 11:35 a.m. at Cheney Stadium; it will air on 850-AM.