The Pacific Coast League’s leader in home runs and runs batted in set the tone early in the Tacoma Rainiers’ third straight loss to the hard-charging Reno Aces.
Batting with a run in and two runners on base in the bottom of the first inning, Reno’s Kyle Jensen lifted a twisting fly ball toward right field. With the wind pushing it toward the corner, the ball clanged off the foul pole for a three-run homer, giving Reno a four-run lead just four batters into the bottom of the first inning.
Reno went on to win Friday night’s game, 12-3, and pull within 3½ games of first-place Tacoma with 10 games remaining.
“Not a good game, not a good series going so far,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We’ve given up too many hits, we’re making too many mistakes and not making plays defensively.”
For the third game in a row, Tacoma’s starting pitcher struggled.
Reno native Joe Wieland started for the Rainiers, and he gave up nine runs on 11 hits over four innings. It was the third straight game in which Tacoma’s starting pitcher has allowed at least nine runs.
Reno has scored 36 runs on 45 hits over the first three games of the series.
“We’ve got to get back to the drawing board on their offense, and we’ve got to keep them to single digits,” Listach said.
Wieland (12-6) was tagged with the loss. He had won his previous six starts, and the team had won nine of the last 11 games Wieland had started.
Stefen Romero was a bright spot for Tacoma. The Rainiers’ right fielder went 3 for 5, including a triple and a homer. Both of his extra-base hits were driven to straightaway center field.
Tacoma had 11 hits and has totaled 40 hits over the first three games of the series. The Rainiers were robbed of three more hits Friday on outstanding defensive plays.
“If we keep swinging the bats the way we are, they can’t keep making all of those plays defensively,” Listach said. “They’re making diving play after diving play after diving play. We’re swinging the bats.”
Reno starter Billy Buckner earned his first Triple-A win of the year, lasting seven innings and allowing two runs. The 34-year-old was making only his second start for Reno this season.
Jensen leads the PCL with 30 home runs and 117 RBIs. … Dae-Ho Lee was 2 for 3 before being removed for a pinch runner in the sixth inning. He’s 14 for 27 in seven games for Tacoma. … Rehabbing Mariners reliever Evan Scribner pitched a scoreless seventh inning, allowing one hit.
The series continues at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Tacoma starts Jarrett Grube (1-4, 3.94) against Reno’s Matt Buschmann (8-10, 5.33).
Mike Curto is the radio announcer for the Tacoma Rainiers.