A scheduled brief start by Tacoma’s James Paxton put the Rainiers at a pitching disadvantage, yet Tacoma nearly won a game in which it trailed 7-0 after five innings.
The Rainiers made a furious comeback, scoring three runs in both the sixth and seventh innings, before losing to the Fresno Grizzlies, 7-6, on Wednesday afternoon.
Tacoma manager Pat Listach was informed earlier in the week that Paxton would be making a short start, roughly one inning in duration. The parent Mariners want to prevent Paxton from being overused early in the season, given his injury history and Seattle’s possible needs later.
“Paxton’s most important role for this organization is to pitch in the big leagues, and we don’t want to use up all of his innings down here,” said Listach. “We want to make sure he has quality, impact innings later in the season.”
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After needing only 12 pitches to retire the side in the first inning, Paxton faced two batters in the second. He walked one and got the other to ground out, then was relieved by Jordan Pries.
Pries got out of the second inning, but he allowed two runs in the third and another in the fourth to fall behind 3-0.
In the fifth, Pries allowed three consecutive hits and was knocked out by Matt Duffy’s RBI double that made it 4-0.
Casey Coleman was summoned from the bullpen, and his first pitch was blasted for a three-run homer by Jon Singleton. Suddenly, Tacoma trailed, 7-0.
With Fresno’s Mike Hauschild spinning a shutout, the outcome appeared to be just about settled.
But with two outs in the sixth, Hauschild walked Chris Taylor on a full-count pitch, then he hit Efren Navarro with an errant breaking ball. Stefen Romero followed with a 400-foot, line-drive home run to straightaway center field, and it was 7-3.
Tacoma scored three more runs in the seventh against reliever Jordan Jankowski. Daniel Robertson pulled a two-run homer to left field, and Boog Powell scored on a series of wild pitches to make it 7-6.
“We battled back again,” said Listach. “They don’t give away at-bats. It’s fun to watch them play.”
The comeback ended when Jankowski pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Fresno closer James Hoyt worked a perfect ninth inning to nail down his eighth save.
Tacoma will start RHP Adrian Sampson (3-2, 3.47 ERA) against Fresno LHP Tommy Shirley (3-1, 2.79) at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in the third game of the four-game series.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.