It was certainly not the same Tacoma Rainiers team that led the Pacific Coast League in runs entering Sunday’s contest against the Las Vegas 51s.
Tacoma’s lineup has been gutted of most of its big bats because of call-ups to the Mariners and other transactions recently.
Lacking the needed firepower, the Rainiers mustered six hits in a 4-1 loss to the 51s at Cheney Stadium.
“You have these spells where guys get called up (or) designated for assignment,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “We ran into a streak where we lost a bunch of guys recently to the big leagues or DFA (designated for assignment), and we’re going to do what we can.”
While offense has been at a premium lately, the Tacoma pitching staff had been solid. But starter Brandon Mauer struggled with his control against the 51s. After retiring the side in order to open the game, Mauer ran into trouble in the bottom of the second.
Las Vegas’ Ike Davis led off with a double and Brandon Hicks’ single up the middle put runners at first and third with no outs. Jamie Hoffman then doubled to left to drive in a run. After a walk loaded the bases, the 51s got another run on a double play to take a 2-0 lead.
Eric Campbell knocked Mauer out of the game in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double to push the lead to 4-0 for Las Vegas (43-38).
Mauer allowed four earned runs on seven hits in 42/3 innings, throwing 102 pitches, with 57 strikes and 45 balls.
Maurer walked three batters and hit another in falling to 2-2 this season in Triple-A Tacoma.
“His command is not what it needs to be … his fastball command in particular,” Stearns said. “He needs to throw strikes down in the zone to both sides of the plate, and get ahead. Then he can mix in his secondary stuff. He’s struggling a little bit. He’s an exceptional pitcher, and down the line he’ll get it. Right now he’s working some things out.”
Las Vegas starter Matt Fox went six innings and allowed three hits while striking out six as the Rainiers failed to advance a runner to second base against him.
Tacoma’s best chance to cut into the lead came in the seventh after loading the bases with one out.
The 51s brought in left-hander Robert Carson to face designated hitter Scott Savastano, who lined a single off the glove of sliding center fielder Brian Bixler to drive in a run. But the rally fizzled after Robert Andino popped out and Abraham Almonte grounded out. The lone run was the second in the past 27 innings for the Rainiers (48-36).
“You need to get the big hit and we didn’t get it,” Stearns said.
Phenom Taijuan Walker (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his second career Triple-A start for the Rainiers against Colorado Springs’ Jeff Manship (3-6, 6.33) at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Cheney Stadium.