NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Danny Hultzen returned to the mound, and Tacoma took a lead into the late innings, but the normally reliable Rainiers bullpen could not hold onto a lead in the series opener in Nashville on Tuesday.
Jordan Brown hit a two-out, game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring Eric Farris with the winning run as Nashville defeated Tacoma, 3-2.
Working on a short pitch count, Hultzen pitched scoreless baseball for 32/3 innings. His control was sharp for the first three innings, which he worked without much trouble. He walked two batters in the fourth inning before being lifted with two outs, having thrown 64 pitches.
“Hultzen’s stuff was good. He felt good. I thought he looked good,” Tacoma manager Daren Brown said.
Rehabilitating Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush entered the game in the fifth inning, and he tossed two efficient scoreless innings, facing the minimum six batters and throwing 16 of his 18 pitches for strikes.
Tacoma (52-72) scored one run in the second inning against Nashville starter Hiram Burgos when Vinnie Catricala singled home Carlos Peguero. But a missed opportunity in the fourth proved costly when the Rainiers left the bases loaded.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Brown said. “The biggest turning point in the game was when we had the bases loaded with nobody out and we don’t score.”
Burgos got Catricala to pop up, then struck out Carlos Triunfel and Brandon Bantz to escape the jam.
“(Burgos) was getting us to chase balls down out of the zone, and then throwing it for strikes,” said Brown. “We just didn’t make good adjustments against him.”
Tacoma took a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh on a two-out RBI single by Nick Franklin, but normally reliable relievers David Pauley and Bobby LaFromboise couldn’t make the lead hold up.
Pauley allowed three consecutive singles for a run in the seventh, then gave up a game-tying homer to hot-hitting Sounds outfielder Khris Davis.
LaFromboise allowed a one-out single to Farris in the ninth, and Farris was at second with two outs. The Rainiers intentionally walked Davis, getting a left-on-left matchup with Brown.
Brown worked a full count, meaning the outfielders had to come in a step or two because Farris would be running on the next pitch. Brown drove a deep fly to center field, just beyond the reach of sprinting center fielder Darren Ford for the winning hit.
All three Nashville runs came against the Tacoma bullpen, which had posted a 1.68 ERA over the previous 19 games.
Nashville improved to 57-67, and 21 of the Sounds’ 57 wins have come in the team’s final at-bat.
The Rainiers did not fill Justin Smoak’s roster spot after the first baseman was promoted to Seattle. … Injured reliever Cesar Jimenez (elbow) pitched a scoreless inning on a rehabilitation assignment in the Arizona Rookie League on Monday.
The second game of the series will be at 5:05 p.m. (PST) today. Tacoma starts Erasmo Ramirez (4-3, 3.44) against Nashville veteran Claudio Vargas (5-1, 3.64).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.