ROUND ROCK, Texas — One word describes the Tacoma Rainiers’ performance in the opening game of a four-game series in Round Rock: flat.
Tacoma mustered three hits — compared to 14 for Round Rock — and lost to the Express, 5-1, on Monday night.
Despite the huge disparity in hits, Tacoma was very much in the game until the bottom of the eighth inning.
Starting pitcher James Paxton dodged threat after threat, allowing two runs over six innings despite giving up eight hits and walking five.
The left-hander stranded nine baserunners during his outing while getting help from a defense that gunned down three Round Rock runners on the basepaths.
“Paxton pitched very well after digging several holes for himself,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “He made some really nice pitches with guys in scoring position to get some important outs. When he left, it was 2-1 after six innings.”
Tacoma took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, when Carlos Peguero connected for a home run to right off Round Rock starter Josh Lindblom.
Lindblom was ejected under unusual circumstances in the fourth. With the score tied 1-1, Lindblom hit Peguero in the leg with the first pitch of the fourth inning. He was immediately tossed by home plate umpire Shaun Lampe, who thought it was an intentional drilling after Peguero took his time circling the bases earlier.
After the ejection, both benches were warned about pitching inside. Tacoma pitchers hit two Round Rock batters after the warning, but both were clearly accidental and there were no further ejections.
Round Rock took the lead in the fourth when Eli Whiteside doubled and Jim Adduci tripled him home.
The Express added a run in the seventh, but Tacoma put the tying runners on base in the top of the eighth when Carlos Triunfel doubled and Leury Bonilla walked with one out. Express reliever Wilmer Font escaped the jam, retiring Abraham Almonte and Franklin Gutierrez to end the inning.
Whiteside led off the bottom of the eighth with a homer, capping a 3-for-4 night.
The veteran catcher entered play hitting .165 in more than 200 plate appearances.
Tacoma has won 17 of its past 21 games against Round Rock, dating back five years. … Ty Kelly went 0-for-4, marking the third time he has not reached base with a hit or a walk in 35 games since joining the Rainiers. … Stefen Romero (back) missed his fourth consecutive game.
The series continues at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday. The Rainiers will start Andrew Carraway (6-5, 4.80 ERA) against Round Rock’s Evan Meek (5-7, 3.80).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.