Logic says that the Tacoma Rainiers pitching staff was going to eventually allow a run to score. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t hope for a third consecutive shutout.
James Paxton kept Round Rock off the scoreboard until the sixth inning, but the Express eventually broke through for some late runs and beat Tacoma, 4-1, on Thursday night.
Paxton and Round Rock’s Nick Tepesch were locked in a pitcher’s duel that — for a while — looked as though it might end with a 1-0 final score.
Efren Navarro’s opposite-field homer in the second inning gave Tacoma an early run, and then Tepesch and Paxton posted zero after zero on the scoreboard.
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Tacoma’s streak of consecutive scoreless innings pitched reached 27, going back to the fourth inning of Monday’s game. But mistakes in the bottom of the sixth ended the streak.
With two outs and nobody on base, former Rainiers outfielder James Jones reached on an error by Tacoma third baseman Tyler Smith. Paxton then issued his only two walks, to Delino DeShields and Ryan Strausborger, to load the bases.
Swinging at the first pitch he saw, Brett Nicholas pulled a ground ball through the right side of the infield to drive in two runs, and the Express had finally broken through.
“The pitching the last three days has been phenomenal,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We gave up two unearned runs in the sixth. We’re still pitching good.”
Paxton (4-3) lasted six innings, allowing two unearned runs on three hits. He struck out five and walked two.
Round Rock scored again in the seventh and eighth innings. Each time, an Express batter drew a walk and scored on a two-out hit.
Tepesch (4-2) lasted seven innings, giving up only the home run to Navarro. Tacoma was held to four hits the rest of the way — all singles — and did not advance another runner past second base.
“We put some good swings on Tepesch,” Listach said. “James Jones caught three balls on the wall (in left field). They played good defense, and we hit into a costly double play late in the game.”
Tacoma had to settle for a split of the four-game series. The Rainiers have not won a road series this season despite having a 2-1 series lead going into the final game on five occasions.
The road trip moves on to New Orleans, where a four-game series starts at 5 p.m. (PDT) Friday. Tacoma starts Brad Mills (0-0, 3.68 ERA) against New Orleans’ Chris Narveson (0-1, 5.63).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.