After a season-opening homestand in which nearly everything went right for the Tacoma Rainiers, the team’s first road game of the season was quite the opposite.
The Rainiers made three errors, hit into four double plays, and issued seven walks in an 11-6 loss to Albuquerque in the Isotopes home opener on Friday night.
Compare this with the opening homestand in which the Rainiers won six of the seven games. Tacoma made two errors over the seven games, hit into three double plays, and issued 12 walks.
“I wouldn’t call them bad breaks,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach. “Some of the things that went wrong, we created on our own. The defense wasn’t as good as it has been in the past, and they capitalized on our errors. We walked more than we should have and gave them a lot of free bases.”
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Rainiers starting pitcher James Paxton tossed a scoreless first inning, but struggled through the second before getting knocked out in the third.
Albuquerque sent nine batters to the plate in the second, scoring three runs. The first two batters reached on a fielding error by shortstop Chris Taylor and a walk, leading to the big inning.
After needing 54 pitches to get through two innings, Paxton struggled again in the third. A one-out walk followed by two singles loaded the bases for Tim Smalling, who deposited a grand-slam home run into the bullpen in left field. It was the first home run of the season for the Isotopes, and it knocked Paxton (0-2) out of the game.
“Paxton had trouble with his command,” said Listach. “I thought he had Smalling in a position where he could have gone for the strikeout, and he left a ball up and he hit a grand slam.”
Remarkably, Tacoma had a leadoff hit in eight of the nine innings. But Isotopes starter Shane Carle induced four double-play grounders over the first six innings, limiting the damage.
Tacoma’s Stefen Romero and Mike Zunino each continued their hot hitting.
Romero went 3 for 4, including a two-out RBI triple and a solo home run. Zunino had three hits, including a homer — a tape-measure drive to left in the fourth inning off Carle.
Rainiers first baseman Efren Navarro was given a day off for the first time this season. He entered play leading the team with nine RBIs, which ranked fourth-best in the PCL. … Tacoma went 32-40 in road games during the 2015 season.
Tacoma sends right-hander Adrian Sampson (1-0, 0.00) to the mound in the second game of the series, on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. (PT). Albuquerque is scheduled to start left-hander Ryan Carpenter (0-1, 7.20).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers