If James Paxton continues to pitch like he did Friday against the reigning Triple-A champion Reno Aces, he won't have to spend much time in Tacoma.
The left-hander retired the first 13 batters he faced to earn his second win of the season, and the Rainiers held off Reno, 7-6, in front of 5,801 at Cheney Stadium.
Paxton compiled a season-high nine strikeouts in five innings and gave up just one run in the outing.
“Paxton looked like a big leaguer,” said Tacoma manager John Stearns, who took over for Daren Brown on Thursday. “He pounded the strike zone, worked the count, threw strikes with three pitches and was working at 92-95 (mph).”
Paxton left an inning after losing his perfect-game bid with a four-run lead as Tacoma held on for its 10th win in a row.
Paxton couldn’t be touched early. Adam Eaton was a case-in-point.
Eaton, the reigning Pacific Coast League MVP, came in making his first minor league rehabilitation appearance after a sprained left elbow forced his spring training to end early after batting .390.
Eaton is on a clear path to rejoin the Diamondbacks’ major league lineup soon.
But Paxton made Eaton’s season debut a rough one, striking him out in both appearances, the second time getting him to chase an 81-mph curveball.
“It was definitely my best start of the year,” said Paxton, who improved to 2-2 with a 5.19 earned-run average. “My stuff felt good, especially my change-up and curve, and I was making those pitches when I needed to and I was able to rack up some strikeouts. It felt good.”
Given a sizeable cushion after the Rainiers (19-10) scored four runs in the second inning, Paxton didn’t relent. He maintained a perfect game into the fifth, striking out six out of eight batters in one stretch.
But then the 24-year-old started to lose command.
Paxton struck out Kila Ka’aihue to lead off the fifth, but saw his perfect game bid end when he walked Matt Davidson on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt.
Paxton struck out Brad Snyder, but lost his no-hit bid when Taylor Harbin singled on a 3-2 pitch.
As for the shutout? That was lost when Tuffy Gosewisch followed with an RBI single to cut the Rainiers’ lead to 5-1.
Paxton got out of the inning but was done for the night. Stearns said Paxton would be limited to 85 pitches. He threw 84, 51 for strikes.
The Rainiers scored four runs in the second inning. Nate Tenbrink, who led the game off with a home run, hit a two-run single to put the Rainiers up, 5-0. Tacoma extended the lead to 7-1 in the sixth with RBI singles from Scott Savastano and Jesus Sucre but saw it almost completely wiped away after the Aces scored five runs in the seventh.
Eric Thames’ on-base streak came to an end at 27 games. He had reached safely in every game he played in this season. … Carlos Peguero missed his second straight game with a hip injury, Stearns said.
Blake Beaven will make his season debut for the Rainiers at 5 p.m. Saturday. Charles Brewster (1-2, 5.06 ERA) will start for the Aces. The game will broadcast on 850-AM.