Technically, the Tacoma Rainiers lost on Saturday night in Fresno, but it might be more accurate to say they lost it in the afternoon.
Scheduled starting pitcher Taijuan Walker was scratched hours before the game at the request of the Seattle Mariners so the Rainiers were forced to have a “bullpen day,” and Fresno picked up the 9-2 win.
Reliever Logan Kensing made the emergency start and pitched quite well before tiring in the fourth inning.
Making his first start since July 27, 2007, Kensing limited Fresno to one hit through the first three innings.
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Tacoma built an early 2-0 lead when designated hitter Corey Hart opened the game with a home run to left-center off Grizzlies starter Austin Fleet. The Rainiers scored again in the second, when Ty Kelly doubled to right field and scored on a single by Gabriel Noriega.
Kensing had retired eight consecutive batters before he walked Mark Minicozzi with one out in the fourth. He gave up a two-out double to Chris Dominguez before walking Jarrett Parker to load the bases.
Sensing that Kensing was out of gas, Rainiers manager Roy Howell brought Trevor Miller in from the bullpen to make his second Triple-A appearance.
Brandon Hicks greeted Miller with a two-run single to center. Then Miller threw a wild pitch, scoring Parker to give Fresno a 3-2 lead. Tyler Colvin singled in another run before Miller got the final out of the inning.
Three of the four runs that scored were charged to Kensing (6-3), who took the loss despite exiting the game with a 2-0 lead.
Fresno added to its lead in the fifth inning, when Chris Dominguez singled home a pair of runs. The Grizzlies tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning, getting back-to-back RBI singles from Colvin and former Rainiers catcher Guillermo Quiroz.
As for Walker, Howell would only indicate that the Mariners did not want him to pitch on Saturday. He is still on the Tacoma roster and in Fresno with the team.
First baseman Justin Smoak singled in his final at-bat, extending his streak of games reaching base via hit or walk to 26. He went 1-of-4 for the game. ... Hart has homered three times during the eight games of his rehabilitation assignment. ... Right fielder Stefen Romero had two singles and is batting exactly .400 (40-for-100) since being optioned to Tacoma on August 1.
Tacoma looks to even the three-game series at Fresno on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. The Rainiers are scheduled to start right-hander Andrew Carraway (8-5, 5.28 ERA) against Grizzlies left-hander Mike Kickham (8-8, 4.43).