On Saturday night, the Tacoma Rainiers’ bullpen let them down. On Sunday afternoon, it was their defense.
With the score tied in the bottom of the eighth with one out and Las Vegas’ Eric Campbell at third base, Travis Taijeron hit a hard grounder off reliever Justin De Fratus that was bobbled by a drawn-in Chris Taylor at shortstop, which allowed the eventual winning run to score as the Rainiers lose to the Las Vegas 51s, 6-5, in front of 3,165 at Cashman Field. .
Las Vegas reliever Paul Sewald (3-2) threw a scoreless eighth for the win.
“Last night, (Las Vegas) beat us. Today, we gave it away,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We also gave them extra outs.”
It appeared that Taylor, who did get Taijeron out at first base, perhaps would have thrown out Campbell. Taylor also had a fifth-inning error that aided in allowing a Las Vegas run. De Fratus (2-2) took the loss after allowing a leadoff walk to Campbell, who was sacrificed to second on a bunt and then stole third. The loss drops Tacoma (33-23) to 1-6 in its series against the 51s (30-26) this season.
In the top of the ninth with two outs against Las Vegas reliever Erik Goeddel, Mike Zunino reached on a fielding error by the usually reliable T.J. Rivera at third base. Efren Navarro kept the game going with a soft-liner to center. But Patrick Kivlehan, who was 2 for 5 and an RBI, struck out to end the game as Goeddel earned his first career save.
Tacoma utility player Zach Shank was 3 for 3 at the plate and scored three runs, which includes his first two homers of the season. Both home runs were solo shots to left field in the third and sixth innings.
“He plays all over the field. He’s a little gamer,” said Listach. “He’s a gap-to-gap hitter. I had him out of the lineup for two games after he got hit in the elbow with a line drive during (batting practice). (Hitting coach) Scott Brosius said he was ready to go (today).”
Tacoma starting pitcher Andrew Kittredge was making his fourth start and 13th appearance. He threw four innings, allowing three hits and three runs (one earned).
All three runs Kittredge allowed were in the first inning. The first run came on an unusual sacrifice fly to center that allowed leadoff hitter Dilson Herrera to score from second base after Shank made a diving catch. Two batters later, Kittredge could not handle a slow roller up the first baseline, allowing Johnny Monell to reach on an error with two outs.
Campbell then followed with a two-run homer to left field.
“That play has got to be made (by Kittredge),” Listach said. “He got the handle and it was kind of a traveling violation there. He did a nice job except for that first-inning play. In the beginning of the game, we just didn’t get off to a good start.”
Las Vegas starting pitcher Seth Lugo went five innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs. The Rainiers started to hit off Lugo in the fifth, scoring three runs on four hits, highlighted by Mike Baxter’s two-RBI double to right center and Kivlehan’s RBI single to left, which briefly gave the Rainiers a 4-3 lead.
The Rainiers have a 12-17 record on the road, but remain four games up on second-place Reno in the division.
The temperature was 102 degrees for the noon start of the game.
Tacoma and Las Vegas meet in the third game of the four-game series at 7 p.m. Monday with the Rainiers sending left-hander Brad Mills (1-1, 3.71 ERA) against 51s lefty Duane Below (4-3, 3.70). The game can be heard on 850-AM.