Lineup shake-up sinks Rainiers

Staff writerJune 29, 2013 

On Thursday, Tacoma Rainiers manager John Stearns reveled in the news that shortstop Brad Miller was headed to the big leagues.

But on Friday, Stearns faced the implications of filling out a lineup without Miller. Or Nick Franklin. Or Dustin Ackley. Or Mike Zunino. All four had worn Tacoma caps within the past month or so, but all four spent their Friday night in the Seattle Mariners’ starting lineup.

Meanwhile, they were missed at Cheney Stadium, where the Rainiers’ four-game winning streak came to a thundering halt with a 9-0 loss to the Las Vegas 51s, who launched four home runs.

“That’s the game,” Stearns said. “We have to deal with that and move forward. We sent some guys to the big leagues: That’s our job. Some other guys, unfortunately, got designated for assignment; so they’re not with the team anymore. So it’s not really anything we as a team and a staff here, we can’t complain or do anything about it. That’s just the way the game is. The team has changed a little bit just recently — like in the last three or four days. We have a whole different lineup out there now.”

Rainiers’ starter James Paxton, the reigning Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week, retired the 51s in order in the first. That marked Tacoma’s 23rd consecutive scoreless inning — matching their longest streak since 2010.

However, the good times pretty much ended there for the home crowd of 5,495, until the postgame fireworks display.

Las Vegas stopped the shutout streak and took the lead with a run in the second inning. Then came the long-ball onslaught — three runs, including a two-run homer by Kai Gronauer in the fourth; then five more runs and three more homers in the sixth, when Paxton (4-6) departed.

Rainiers relievers Forrest Snow, Lucas Luetge and Jonathan Arias held off any more damage over the final three innings. But the Rainiers’ offense couldn’t mange a run, let alone a challenging rally. The win went to Las Vegas starter Giancarlo Alvarado (1-0). Catcher Francisco Pena drove in five runs.

Tacoma’s top offensive producers were at the top of the order: Abraham Almonte and Carlos Triunfel, with two hits each.

Tacoma (48-34) still has the best record in the PCL and a three-game lead over Colorado Springs and four-game cushion on Salt Lake in the Pacific North Division.

“We’ve gotten some good pitching — the pitching staff looks strong,” Stearns said. “So overall, you go into these situations at Triple A, where you lose some players, you get some players. It goes on and on like that all year, and this is just one of those times where we’re kind of in the down (times). But we’ll get some players again, and we have some good players now; so nobody’s complaining. We have to go out and just play our game, and we’ll be OK.”

ON TAP

Tacoma and Las Vegas (41-38) continue their series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The probable pitching matchup is Rainiers right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (2-2, 2.23 ERA) against Las Vegas right-hander Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.77). The game can be heard on 850-AM.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

@donruiztnt

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