Tacoma Rainiers starter Sam Gaviglio allowed only one run in a seven-inning complete game on Thursday night at Cheney Stadium. But it turned out to be one run too many.
El Paso held off the Rainiers for a 1-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader necessitated by Wednesday’s rainout. The Chihuahuas scored their run in the first inning, with left fielder Franchy Cordero leading off with a single before stealing second base and scoring on first baseman Jamie Romak’s two-out, RBI single.
Gaviglio, a right-hander, was nearly flawless otherwise, allowing four hits with four strikeouts and no walks in seven innings. After a rocky first and second inning, he retired the final 17 batters he faced.
“He attacked their weaknesses and stuck with his strengths,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said, “so he had success. He really located the ball well.”
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Tacoma’s best scoring threat came in the fifth inning, when shortstop Tyler Smith led off with a single before third baseman Zach Shank was hit by a pitch. But when catcher Steve Baron tried to move the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, El Paso pitcher Matt Magill instead fielded the ball and threw to third base in time to get Smith, then struck out Boog Powell and got Gordon Beckham to line out to second base.
Magill pitched six scoreless innings and allowed two hits with six strikeouts to earn the victory.
The Rainiers didn’t score in the first four innings of the nightcap, either, totaling 11 consecutive scoreless frames before finally breaking through.
When they did, they piled up enough to win comfortably, plating four runs in the bottom of the fifth — and riding another stellar performance by a starting pitcher, this time right-hander Chris Heston — to fuel a 5-0, seven-inning victory.
Back-to-back doubles by second baseman Gordon Beckham and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach made it 2-0, and third baseman D.J. Peterson delivered a two-out, two-run single three batters later to push Tacoma’s lead to 4-0.
Vogelbach drove in another run with a single in the sixth.
Heston yielded four hits and allowed one runner past second base — the first batter of the game — while striking out six.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a doubleheader where I had two complete games by our starters,” Listach said.
PLAY OF THE GAME(S): With Tacoma leading 2-0 and runners on second and third, Peterson ripped a double into the left field gap to drive in a pair and open up a four-run lead.
PLUS: Despite the loss in the first game, Gaviglio was as good as he’s ever been, throwing the second complete game of his professional career (even though it was only seven innings). “He commanded the ball really well,” Listach said. “We went over the opposing team’s weaknesses before the game. I was in on the meeting with the pitchers and catchers and (pitching coach) Lance (Painter), and he had it down to a T.” … Heston was also excellent, tossing his fourth shutout as a professional. He struck out six and walked only one while allowing four hits. It was his first complete game since throwing a no-hitter in 2015 with the San Francisco Giants against the New York Mets.
MINUS: Listach said the Rainiers had a few opportunities to get to Magill in the first game, particularly when he struggled to locate his offspeed pitches. “That’s when we should have taken advantage of him,” Listach said, “and we didn’t.” Baron also could have helped by dropping a proper bunt in the fifth inning, but he pushed it too hard and right back to the pitcher.
STAT PACK: Vogelbach went 3 for 4 in the nightcap with two RBIs. Beckham went 3 for 3. … The Rainiers stole four bases in the second game and one in the first. Powell, playing in his first game since serving an 80-game suspension after testing positive for PEDs, had three steals in all.
QUOTABLE: “We’ve got a very versatile team, guys that can steal some bases — Beckham, (Ben) Gamel, Powell, Smith, Shank. We’ve just got to pick and choose the right times. We can take advantage of a lot of opposing teams.” — Listach on Tacoma’s aggressive base-running.