FRESNO, Calif.—The Tacoma Rainiers’ string of 47 consecutive games in sole possession of first place came to an end Sunday evening in Fresno.
The Rainiers’ 5-2 loss to the Grizzlies, coupled with Salt Lake’s 9-7 win over Sacramento, brought Salt Lake and Tacoma into a tie atop the Pacific North Division. The teams have identical records of 56-46.
It was a familiar problem for the Rainiers on Sunday: Offensive woes led to a loss. Tacoma managed four hits — solo home runs by Nate Tenbrink and Abraham Almonte – and a pair of singles.
The Rainiers have lost seven of their past eight games, and in six of those losses, Tacoma was held to two runs or fewer.
“No offense means that you can’t hardly win the game,” Rainiers manager John Stearns said. “That’s been the problem during this little losing streak thing. We’re going to go home and get guys out (to the park) early and try to get them going again.”
Fresno (47-55) took the lead with a three-run rally against Tacoma starter Chance Ruffin. Two of the runs scored after there were two outs and nobody on base, when the 7-8-9 hitters — Carter Jurica, Ehire Adrianza, and Ydwin Villegas — connected on three consecutive hits.
Ruffin (0-2) gave up five runs in 42/3 innings. His game ended prematurely when he was ejected by first base umpire Quinn Wolcott for arguing that Johnny Monell’s run-scoring double was a foul ball. Monell’s chopper took one big bounce over first base and rolled down the right-field line.
“From my standpoint it looked foul,” Stearns said. “I thought the umpire should have asked for help.”
Grizzlies starter Justin Fitzgerald (1-3) earned his first Triple-A win, turning in a strong eight-inning performance. He issued one walk and struck out three. After allowing the solo home runs in the second and third innings, Fitzgerald did not allow a runner to reach second base for his final five innings.
Fresno reliever Brett Bochy pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn the save. It was the first career Triple-A save for Bochy, the son of San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
Fitzgerald and Tacoma second baseman Ty Kelly were teammates at UC Davis in 2008, leading the Aggies to the NCAA regionals.
The Rainiers return home against the Tucson Padres at 7:05 p.m. Monday Tacoma starts James Paxton (6-7, 4.58 ERA) against Tucson’s Brandon Kloess (2-3, 4.05).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers