Early grand slam stokes Aces’ drubbing of Rainiers

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMay 21, 2014 

Before the Reno Aces recorded their first out Tuesday, they already had the only run they would need in what would become a 7-0 win over the Tacoma Rainiers at Cheney Stadium.

Three Reno pitchers combined to hand the Rainiers their first shutout of the season. Tacoma hadn’t failed to score a run since July 31 of last season and was the last Pacific Coast League club to be shut out this season.

The Rainiers’ five hits matched their season low.

“Good pitching, obviously, on their side of the fence tonight,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell said. “(Reno starter Zeke Spruill) was throwing strikes, throwing his breaking ball for strikes, working both sides of the plate, and kept us off guard all night. Their whole staff did a nice job.”

The Aces opened the game by greeting Tacoma starter James Gillheeney with five consecutive singles. Still, the Rainiers managed to escape the inning down only 1-0.

Gillheeney wasn’t able to slide off the hook again in the second, although he came close. Reno loaded the bases with a hit batter, a bunt single and a walk. Then, with Gillheeney one out away from escaping unharmed, cleanup hitter Mike Jacobs lofted a fly ball down the right-field line. Tacoma outfielder Jabari Blash made a run at it, but the ball came down just beyond his grasp, just over the 8-foot wall and just inside the foul pole.

“It just went right over the top,” Blash said. “At one point (I thought I could get it), and then I thought about climbing the wall.”

It was the third grand slam surrendered by the Rainiers this season – most in the PCL – and it pushed the Aces’ advantage to 5-0.

The Aces tacked on their final two runs in the seventh.

Gillheeney (1-4) pitched 4 innings and was credited with the loss.

Tacoma’s offense was limited to one hit from five different players. The only extra-base hit was a sixth-inning double by Abraham Almonte.

Spruill (2-1) went six innings for the win.

“We have a good hitting ballclub,” Howell said. “It shows you that they did a nice job on us tonight. We hit some balls hard. They made some nice plays.”

While the Tacoma’s bats were stumbling, the Rainiers made a few memorable plays in the field. A couple of them came from third baseman Leury Bonilla, who pounced on a hard-hit ball down the line in the sixth and handled a nasty hop in the ninth.

The result was a dramatic turnaround from the series-opener on Monday when the Rainiers pounded the Aces, 11-0.

“That’s why it’s a great game,” Howell said. “Last night we go 11-0, tonight they flip it right over. That’s why you can’t predict anything in our game except go out and play and get 27 outs and hope you get one more run than the next guy.”

ON TAP

The Rainiers (20-22) and Aces (25-21) continue their series at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday. Tacoma is scheduled to send right-hander Andrew Carraway (2-2, 5.40 ERA) against right-hander Mike Bolsinger (2-0, 2.38).

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com @donruiztnt

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