Justin De Fratus let one pitch catch too much of the plate.
And that was all the Sacramento River Cats needed. Ramiro Pena’s solo home run beat the Tacoma Rainiers, 1-0, on Tuesday afternoon as Sacramento left Tacoma with three wins in four games.
It was the third hit the Rainiers’ pitching staff had allowed all game and the first since the second inning — before Adrian Sampson, David Rollins and De Fratus had combined to retire 19 consecutive batters.
“One pitch — left it too much over the middle,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said.
“But our pitching has been outstanding the past two days, which is what we were looking to get back to.”
Indeed. This game came after James Paxton, Steve Johnson, Rollins and Blake Parker shut Sacramento down on Monday in a 7-1 victory.
Only this time — and for one of the few times this season – the Rainiers’ bats were silent.
Sacramento had retired 11 of 12 Rainiers hitters before Stefen Romero pushed his hit streak to 12 games, leading off with a 3-2 single in the bottom of the ninth. Efren Navarro then grounded into a double play.
Listach then asked red-hot Mike Zunino to pinch hit for Mike Baxter and he responded with a single — Tacoma’s fifth and final hit of the game. Ed Lucas walked, but Zunino was stranded at second base when Rob Brantly struck out swinging to end the game.
“They were throwing a lot of breaking balls and mixing it up a lot and making us expand the zone a little bit to chase pitches,” said Romero, who is hitting .391 with 15 RBIs in 17 games.
“I had a couple pitches that I missed and I’m sure a lot of other guys also.”
Sampson was pulled after 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Rainiers (11-8). The native of Redmond allowed two hits, and struck out six on 96 pitches. He retired 15 of his final 16 batters — with the only baserunner in that stretch reaching because of Chris Taylor’s error in the third inning.
Before Zunino’s pinch-hit single, he entered Tuesday leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs (7), RBIs (22), slugging percentage (.823), extra-base hits (12) and total bases (51), while being second in batting average (.403) and runs scored (18) in 16 games played. … Listach said infielder Tyler Smith is fine after being hit in the helmet by a pitch Monday, though he had one more precautionary doctor’s appointment Tuesday. Listach said the force of the pitch cracked Smith’s helmet on a play that was ruled to have first hit Smith’s bat and therefore called a strike. “I only heard one sound, and that was obviously his helmet. I didn’t hear two sounds — I didn’t hear the ball hit the bat and the helmet. And the helmet is cracked, so we know it hit the helmet.”
The Rainiers are off Wednesday before beginning a four-game series at Las Vegas at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. Right-hander Donn Roach (1-1, 8.59 ERA) is scheduled to start for Tacoma against lefty Sean Gilmartin (1-1, 1.62). The game can be heard on 850-AM.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677