The announced crowd of 6,264 at the Tacoma Rainiers’ series finale against Omaha might have gotten more excitement from the postgame fireworks show — a staple all season after Friday night home games at Cheney Stadium — than from a 9-3 loss to the Omaha Storm Chasers.
The themes for the Rainiers’ season-high, seven-game skid aren’t rocket science: spotty offensive production and struggles with pitching, particularly in the Omaha series. Over the past seven games, the Rainiers averaged 2.4 runs a game while their starting pitching allowed 27 earned runs.
For the second consecutive game, the Rainiers struck out 15 times — the third time in four games they posted double-digit strikeouts. In spite of their 11 hits Friday, including five doubles, they stranded 14 on base and went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“That’s what happens in a big losing streak,” Rainiers manager John Stearns said. “Nothing goes right.”
The loss, coupled with a Salt Lake victory, puts the Rainiers (60-54) five games behind the Bees for first place.
Omaha (57-57) did what only one other team — the Reno Aces — had done this season: sweep the Rainiers at home.
Just like James Paxton the previous night in a 4-2 loss, Tacoma starter Andrew Carraway had command and location problems, resulting in a high pitch count.
Omaha rocked Carraway for eight earned runs (with two home runs) on eight hits, five walks and two strikeouts. Carraway left after 32/3 innings, trailing 7-0 with the bases loaded.
Carraway has been a consistent starter, yet in three of his past four starts, the right-hander has allowed an average of 5.75 runs.
“You can give up some hits, but you can’t give up hits and walks,” Stearns said. “Hopefully, we can keep working with him and he can get through some of these struggles.
“The bullpen has been pitching well, but you can’t ride your bullpen every night. You have to have a quality start.”
Pedro Ciriaco hit a two-run home run and a two-run double for Omaha.
Outfielder Joe Dunigan was transferred to Tacoma from Double-A Jackson on Friday. He was 0-for-2 in two plate appearances. He appeared in four games with the Rainiers in April before going on the disabled list April 19 because of a jaw injury.
Tacoma welcomes the Iowa Cubs for a four-game series starting at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Right-hander Hector Noesi (2-1, 7.20 ERA) makes his second start since being optioned from the Seattle Mariners. He will go against Cubs left-hander Brooks Raley (6-7, 4.70). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM and at www.tacomarainiers.com.