FRESNO, Calif. – The Tacoma Rainiers’ season came to an end with a 6-4 loss in Fresno on Monday afternoon, in a game that served as a microcosm of the season.
The Rainiers built an early lead, scoring three runs in the second inning to support starting pitcher Danny Hultzen.
The left-hander struggled with his control again, walking five batters and hitting another with a pitch. Yet, as usual, he was tough to hit – Hultzen did not give up a hit until the fifth inning, when Emmanuel Burriss singled during a two-run rally that eventually chased Hultzen.
Alex Liddi homered for Tacoma in the sixth, a solo blast to deep left field that gave Tacoma a 4-2 lead. The home run fit the script because it was Tacoma’s 152nd of the year – the third-highest total in the Pacific Coast League.
Then they veered from normal when Fresno rallied for four runs in the seventh against the 2012 Rainiers’ strength: the bullpen. Todd Linden singled home the tying run and Roger Kieschnick singled in the go-ahead run against reliever Brian Sweeney.
Sweeney (6-4) had allowed only one run in his previous 24 innings.
The loss dropped Tacoma’s final record to 63-81. It is the worst record for the Rainiers since 1994, when the Tacoma Tigers also lost 81 games.
“When you look at the season as a whole, the wins and losses are not where we’d like them to be,” said manager Daren Brown.
Brown cited an ineffective starting rotation as the reason losses piled up early.
“I can look back at one stretch,” said Brown. “When you play 14 games in a row and don’t have a starter get through the fifth inning, that makes it tough. We had a good bullpen, and some of those guys you see in the big leagues right now. We just weren’t able to get to them, or we had to use them a lot.”
The rotation strengthened in August, with the additions of Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, and Erasmo Ramirez.
“You look at the five guys we had in the rotation to start the year, and they’re not here now, and they’re not in the big leagues,” Brown said. “We had some issues, but it gave some other guys opportunities to step in and see what they could do.”
The team finally put together a winning month, going 16-14 in August before dropping two of the three September games.
Reliever Shawn Kelley pitched to one batter in the eighth, striking out catcher Eric Sim. It was Kelley’s first game action since being struck on the right elbow by a line drive on Wednesday in Las Vegas. … Cesar Jimenez pitched in his 148th career Tacoma game, the fourth-most in franchise history. … the Rainiers will open next season on April 4 in Fresno.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.