COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The last time the Tacoma Rainiers faced Sky Sox starting pitcher Chris Volstad, they scored 11 runs before knocking him out in the third inning. Tacoma won that game, 25-6.
Things were a little different Tuesday night.
Volstad was in complete command, pitching into the seventh inning and earning the win as Colorado Springs beat Tacoma 4-1 in the opening game of a four-game series. The Sky Sox (39-31) cut their deficit to 21/2 games behind the first-place Rainiers (43-30).
Volstad — a five-year veteran of major league starting rotations — threw his off-speed pitches for strikes and kept the Rainiers off the bases. It was a far cry from the game May 29, when the Rainiers pummeled him for 12 hits and 11 runs in 2 innings.
“I don’t have an answer for why we hit everything that he threw up there three weeks ago, and today we couldn’t hit him,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “That’s baseball, that’s the way the game is.”
Volstad (4-1) out-dueled Tacoma’s Erasmo Ramirez, who entered the game with an active streak of 15 straight scoreless innings pitched.
Ramirez extended the streak to 19, before Charlie Culberson’s wind-blown triple and a suicide squeeze executed by Hernan Iribarren put the Sky Sox on the scoreboard in the fifth inning.
Lars Davis singled home Iribarren with the go-ahead run, and Ramirez (2-2) allowed two more runs in the sixth inning.
“Erasmo was really sharp,” said Stearns, noting that Ramirez was not hit hard. “They executed a squeeze play for one run, had a bloop double down the line for another run.”
Tacoma scored its run in the second inning, when Stefen Romero lined a leadoff double over the head of right fielder Tim Wheeler. He scored on a single by Rich Poythress, giving the Rainiers an early 1-0 lead.
Tacoma threatened in the seventh, putting two on with one out for Poythress. Sky Sox reliever Nick Schmidt got Poythress to pull a sharp one-hopper to third base, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
The Rainiers had life in the ninth inning, when Franklin Gutierrez led off with a walk. Carlos Peguero followed by ripping a line drive right into the glove of first baseman Ben Paulsen, who doubled off Gutierrez.
The Rainiers added Alex Liddi from Seattle, and utility man Leury Bonilla from Double-A Jackson. … Outfielder Eric Thames went on the seven-day disabled list. … Shortstop Brad Miller missed his second straight game with a finger injury on his right hand.
The teams have a quick turnaround for a day game Wednesday, starting at 11:35 a.m. Tacoma will start Brandon Maurer (1-1, 1.53 ERA) against expected Sky Sox starter Cory Riordan (4-1, 5.18).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.