The Tacoma Rainiers played before the last empty seats of the home season Thursday night at Cheney Stadium.
A crowd of 6,452 watched as the Rainiers fell behind early and stayed behind, all the way to a 6-1 loss to the Las Vegas 51s.
Next, however, the Rainiers will end their home season playing before sellout crowds tonight, Saturday and Sunday.
“The players appreciate when there’s a full house anywhere: whether it’s here or in the big leagues or anywhere,” manager Daren Brown said. “Obviously, there’s a little more excitement, a few more fans, a lot more buzz regardless of where we’re at in the standings or anything. The players appreciate that.”
The Thursday crowd was about 800 below capacity, and those who stayed home didn’t miss much in the way of drama.
Starting pitcher Hector Noesi had an up-and-down performance, and so did the relievers who came in after him.
The runs Las Vegas picked up here and there added up to a total the Rainiers never seriously threatened to match.
“I thought Noesi was all right,” Brown said. “He gave us a chance to win the ballgame. Our bullpen has been good all year. They weren’t good tonight.”
Las Vegas (74-58) jumped ahead with a two-run second inning, stringing together three hits from the bottom half of the order.
Noesi clicked in for a while after that, rolling through perfect third and fourth innings, including four consecutive strikeouts through the heart of the 51s’ order.
Vegas added a run in the fifth when No. 9 hitter Kevin Howard led off with a home run to right.
The Rainiers (57-76) got that run back in the bottom of the inning. Guillermo Quiroz was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a Nick Franklin double and came home on a Franklin Gutierrez shot to the warning track in right.
Noesi left after six innings, having allowed three earned runs on eight hits, with two walks and six strikeouts.
However, the 51s instantly erupted for three runs in the top of the seventh against reliever Brian Moran, who hurt his own cause by walking the first batter he faced and then making the bad choice of trying to throw the runner out at second on a grounder back to the mound.
The throw was late, and suddenly there were two on, none out. After a Ricardo Nanita single and a Luke Hughes double, Las Vegas was ahead, 6-1.
Chance Ruffin and Danny Farquhar held the 51s scoreless from there.
But the Tacoma offense never threatened to get the home team back into the game.
Franklin was the only Rainiers player with multiple hits: a single and a double. Gutierrez had the only Tacoma RBI.
“We had some opportunities, left a few guys on base, and didn’t come through with runners in scoring position,” Brown said. “We didn’t do a whole lot when we got opportunities.”
The Rainiers and 51s will continue their series at 7:05 tonight. Probable starting pitchers are left-handers Danny Hultzen (1-2, 4.35 ERA) for Tacoma and Las Vegas’ Bill Murphy (5-5, 4.59). The game is sold email@example.com 253-597-8808 @donruiztnt