In the opener of a key five-game series at second-place Reno, the Tacoma Rainiers had six straight hits to start the first inning and led by five runs before the Aces even came to the plate.
Everything went downhill from there.
Reno scored in every inning, hit two inside-the-park homers and three outside-the-park homers, and whipped Tacoma, 13-7.
Tacoma’s lead in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division was trimmed to 5 1/2 games with 12 to play — but eight games remain against Reno. Tacoma’s magic number to clinch its first division title since 2010 remains seven.
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The Rainiers greeted Reno starter Matt Koch with six straight hits in the first inning. Dae-Ho Lee contributed an RBI single — one of his three hits on the night. Tyler Smith capped the five-run rally with a two-run single to right.
All told, Tacoma sent 11 batters to the plate, and Reno had the bullpen working in the top of the first.
Remarkably, Koch settled down and lasted seven innings, giving up just one more run. He threw 119 pitches to prevent Reno’s porous bullpen from entering the game until the late innings.
Reno erased a big chunk of the 5-0 deficit just three batters into the bottom of the first, when rehabbing Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock hit an opposite-field three-run homer off Rainiers starter Zach Lee.
Lee allowed a game-tying inside-the-park home run to Kyle Jensen in the third inning. Jensen’s drive hit high off the 25-foot tall center field fence, bounced away from Ryan Strausborger, and Jensen was able to circle the bases and slide in ahead of the tag. It was the PCL-leading 29th home run of the season for Jensen — and the first one that didn’t go over a fence.
In the eighth, Reno’s Socrates Brito hit a nearly identical inside-the-parker to center. Again it was a high drive off the center field fence, bouncing away from Strausborger.
Each team finished with 15 hits, but Reno had five home runs and Tacoma hit none. Brito went 4 for 5 for the Aces, and Pollock had three hits and four RBIs.
Pitcher Cody Martin joined the Rainiers from Seattle and will be inserted into the starting rotation on Sunday. To make room for Martin on the roster, reliever Marvin Gorgas was returned to Everett. … Stefen Romero’s home run on Tuesday was his 60th in a Tacoma uniform, tying him with Bryan LaHair for sixth on the all-time Tacoma home run list. Rick Renick of the Tacoma Twins is the franchise’s all-time leader, hitting 72 from 1973-1976.
Tacoma sends Sam Gaviglio (3-1, 2.58) to the mound for the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. Reno is scheduled to start Shelby Miller (5-1, 3.52).
Mike Curto is the radio announcer for the Rainiers.