Any hope of the Tacoma Rainiers sweeping the El Paso Chihuahuas were dashed by a pair of two-out hits by a San Diego Padres prospect named Diego.
Chihuahuas utility infielder Diego Goris — making the start at first base — hit two RBI doubles in the early innings as El Paso coasted to a 7-1 win over the Rainiers on Thursday night.
The result tied the best-of-five Pacific Conference finals at 1-1. The Pacific Coast League playoff series moves to Cheney Stadium for Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5 this weekend.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the season we were going to go the playoffs, start on the road, and go 1-1 with three games to play at home, I would definitely take it,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach. “They’ve got to beat us two of three at home.”
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Rainiers starting pitcher Cody Martin struck out the first five batters he faced before allowing a two-out single to El Paso’s Franchy Cordero in the second inning, bringing up Goris. Goris hit a deep drive to left-center, and Rainiers center fielder Daniel Robertson made a diving attempt to catch it — only to smother the ball with his glove. Cordero scored from first, and El Paso led 1-0.
Goris struck again with two outs in the fourth inning, and runners at the corners. This time he drove Martin’s 1-2 pitch solidly to the gap in right-center, bringing in both runners for a 3-0 lead.
“The kid is a good player, he plays winter ball down in the Dominican,” said Listach, who managed in the Dominican Winter League this past offseason. “He got two big hits, drove in three runs.”
Goris hit .260 during the regular season for El Paso, but his average surged to .327 when runners were in scoring position.
El Paso starter Walker Lockett kept Tacoma off the scoreboard until the seventh inning. In his fourth Triple-A start, the 22-year-old scattered seven singles and allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings.
“Lockett had a little more velocity then we were expecting, so maybe the adrenaline got him,” Listach said. “He was hitting 94 consistently, and he had power sink on both sides of the plate.”
Martin took the loss, allowing four runs (three earned) in five innings. He struck out eight and walked two.
Zach Lee relieved Martin and allowed three runs in the sixth, making it 7-0. He settled down and finished the game, saving the rest of Tacoma’s bullpen for the remainder of the series.
Ex-Rainiers pitcher Logan Bawcom delivered six strong innings as Oklahoma City defeated Nashville, 5-2, to even the American Conference finals at a game apiece. … Zac Livingston has joined the Rainiers as first base coach for the series. Livingston finished managing the Arizona Rookie League Mariners to a league championship last Friday.
The Pacific Conference series moves to Tacoma, with Game 3 set for 7:05 p.m. Friday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma will start ex-Mariner left-hander Wade LeBlanc (no record) against El Paso right-hander Bryan Rodriguez (4-8, 5.11 ERA). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.