The Tacoma Rainiers have lost several late-inning heartbreakers on this 12-game homestand when victory was snatched from their grasp in the game’s waning moments.
This was not one of those games.
The Rainiers got down early and never challenged the Salt Lake Bees, who rolled to a 9-2 victory, their third win of the four-game series.
Chien-Ming Wang got the start for Tacoma, but found trouble early and often, starting in the first inning. A couple of well-struck balls put one run on the board and only a double-play ball prevented more damage.
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Those issues compounded into more trouble in the second. Singles from Jett Bandy and Roger Kieschnick put two runners aboard. Wang managed to record two outs, but couldn’t contain Jared Mitchell, who hit a three-run homer to give Salt Lake a 4-1 lead.
“He didn’t have his good stuff tonight,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “He gave up a lot of hits, and he just wasn’t very crisp today.”
Mitchell was called up to the Bees after Kyle Kubitza was called up by the Los Angeles Angels. The No. 23 overall pick in 2009 by the Chicago White Sox was batting .223 this season for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, but homered in his first Triple-A at-bat of 2015.
Two runs over the fourth and fifth innings chased Wang from the game. Wang gave up 11 hits and seven earned runs. He walked two and did not strike out a batter.
Listach was blunt in his assessment of the squad.
“We haven’t played well in two weeks,” he said. “Honestly, we aren’t playing a lot of good baseball. We’re playing in a lot of close games, but we have to find a way to win those close games.”
Two unlikely Rainiers provided the long ball. First was Ketel Marte, who hit a leadoff home run to left-center field that tied the game, 1-1.
The other was Leury Bonilla. His homer came in the second inning, his third of the season. Bonilla has hit only 41 home runs in his 11-season minor-league career.
Besides those two solo home runs, the Rainiers were held to four other hits and went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
Jesus Montero entered the evening leading the Pacific Coast League in hits and ranking second in batting average, but went 0 for 4. ... Patrick Kivlehan, the hero of Wednesday’s game with a three-run home run, went 1 for 4 against the Bees on Thursday. … By going 1 for 3, Justin Ruggiano has safely reached base in 11 consecutive games.
The Rainiers start their four-game series against the Fresno Grizzlies at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Cheney Stadium. Starting for Tacoma will be left-hander James Gillheeney (1-1, 6.97 ERA). The Grizzlies will start right-hander Dan Straily (7-6, 3.93 ERA).