Tacoma Rainiers pitcher Zach Lee would have had a stellar outing if not for the fourth inning.
But in that inning, Lee gave up five hits — including four in a row with two outs — allowing Albuquerque to score all of its runs. The Isotopes went on to beat Tacoma, 3-2, on Tuesday at Cheney Stadium thanks to that one outburst.
Otherwise, Lee was strong. He pitched seven innings, struck out five and did not walk a batter. He retired 10 consecutive batters after the Isotopes’ rally that erased a 2-0 Tacoma lead. He also retired the first nine batters of the game.
“Take away that one third of an inning and it’s a really good ballgame,” Lee said. “I kind of had a little hiccup there after we got the double play there in the fourth. Just got a little quick. Left some balls up in the zone, kind of fighting down a little bit.
“I made a good adjustment of getting back down in the zone there in the fifth inning.”
The Rainiers had a chance to tie and possibly take the lead in the bottom of the ninth. Newcomer Mike Freeman, signed off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, led off with a single. Two outs later, DJ Peterson walked to bring up Rob Brantly.
Brantly ripped a grounder that appeared headed into right field but Albuquerque second baseman Jeff Bianchi laid out for the ball, caught it, and threw Brantly out to end the game.
It was that kind of game for the Rainiers, who scored twice in the third off Isotopes starter Eddie Butler, but could not build upon it. Butler frustrated the Rainiers over eight innings, throwing just 83 pitches while giving up four hits.
“Usually first to score is the name of the game and we got on the board early on and they came right back and answered,” said Stefen Romero, who was the Rainiers’ designated hitter.
“We got a lot of early swings early in the game and throughout the entire game. That was the name of the game: Less pitching.”
In the Tacoma third, Tyler Smith hit a two-run homer, driving in Zack Shank, who had doubled. Butler, unlike Lee, got out of the inning without any more damage by inducing Daniel Robertson and Freeman to ground out.
Lee gave up a leadoff single in the fourth but got a double play to erase the runner. From there, the Isotopes’ next four hitters went single, double, triple and an RBI single to make it 3-2. Tom Murphy struck the key blow, driving in two with his triple that bounced off the center field wall. He scored on Jordan Patterson’s RBI single.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to minimize the damage there,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “That should be a shutdown inning.
“(Lee) got in a little funk for about four or five hitters, and that cost us the game.”
Right-hander Marvin Gorgas, who was assigned to the Rainiers from Single-A Everett, was at Cheney Stadium and will be activated for Wednesday’s game in El Paso, Texas. Gorgas was 0-1 in 11 relief appearances in Everett with a 2.41 ERA. … Right-hander Robert Dugger was also called up from Everett and will be activated Wednesday for the road trip. … Freeman arrived in Tacoma late Monday night and started in center field where he was 2 for 4 at the plate. Freeman played the majority of the season at first base with the Reno Aces, but with Dan Vogelbach and Peterson on the roster, Freeman will play second base and the outfield, Listach said.
The Rainiers travel to El Paso to take on the Chihuahuas at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday. Tacoma’s Sam Gaviglio (0-0, 3.26) goes against lefty Frank Garces (4-5, 4.88). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.