FRESNO, Calif. — After scoring nine runs on 17 hits on opening day, the Tacoma Rainiers felt good about their offense.
On day two of the Pacific Coast League season, the Rainiers scored three runs in the first two innings and more offensive fireworks appeared to be on the way.
But Fresno’s pitching staff was able to bear down, and the Grizzlies evened the series by defeating Tacoma, 8-3, on Friday night.
Making his Triple-A debut, Fresno starting pitcher Chris Heston served up a long two-run homer to Alex Liddi in the first inning. It was a welcome-to-the PCL moment for Heston, who allowed only two homers during the 2012 season while winning the Double-A Eastern League’s ERA title and pitcher of the year award.
The Rainiers scored again in the second when Eric Thames tripled with one out and scored on a sacrifice fly by Denny Almonte for a 3-1 lead.
Heston, however, settled down. He made it through six innings without allowing any more damage, racking up nine strikeouts.
“I thought Heston did a good job,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. “You can look at the numbers from last year, and he’s got good stuff.”
Andrew Carraway started for Tacoma and took the loss. He allowed two early runs before retiring nine in a row. Carraway took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, but Kensuke Tanaka hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, and Francisco Peguero had a two-out go-ahead RBI single to give Fresno the lead.
Carraway allowed four runs (three earned) over six innings.
Fresno scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh against relievers Jhonny Nunez and Bobby LaFromboise.
Making his Tacoma debut, Nunez faced four batters and did not record an out. Included was an error when he misplayed Tanaka’s bouncer back to the mound with a runner at third base.
LaFromboise was not charged with any runs, but he inherited two runners from Nunez and they both scored. Again, a bouncer to the mound proved problematic: with runners at first and second and no outs, Tacoma failed to turn a double play on Roger Kieschnick’s one-hopper to the mound when shortstop Carlos Triunfel could not get a handle on the ball during the exchange at second base.
“It just got away from us in the seventh,” Brown said. “We had a couple of opportunities to get out of it only down a couple of runs.”
Outfielder Almonte tied a PCL record Thursday by striking out five times in a nine-inning game... Tacoma’s Mike Zunino went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and he also grounded into a double play. On the plus side, the catching prospect threw out the only runner who attempted to steal.
Jeremy Bonderman makes his Tacoma Rainiers debut, opposed by Fresno’s Andrew Kown at 7:05 p.m.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.