To say this has been a rough patch for the Tacoma offense would be an understatement.
The Rainiers have gone five straight games without scoring more than three runs, a large part of their run of eight losses in the past nine games. That comes on the heals of twice scoring more than nine runs in a game in Reno last week.
Everything came to a head this past series against Salt Lake. The Bees came in with a 6.15 team ERA, the worst in the PCL. Of the 11 pitchers Salt Lake trotted to the mound at Cheney Stadium over the three-game series, just three sport ERAs under 5.00; one of them is a major-leaguer making a one-inning rehab appearance. Three have ERAs over 7.00. One is over 9.40.
After a weekend in Washington, those 11 pitchers combined to hold the Rainiers to three runs in 29 innings. Tacoma combined to hit .180 in three games with Salt Lake, with just two extra-base hits.
“We have to score more runs against the mediocre pitching that we saw,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said after Sunday’s loss, which dropped Tacoma to 51-50 and seven games back of first-place Fresno.
On Friday, the Rainiers had to get up early to leave Reno at 5 a.m., and looked the part, not putting a runner past first base until the bottom of the ninth inning.
“We’ve seen a lot better pitching than we saw, and we just didn’t swing the bats,” Listach said after the game Friday.
Saturday and Sunday, the problem shifted more dramatically from runners to runs, especially in later innings. The Rainiers scored in the first inning in both games, but after that, the well dried.
Throughout the weekend, Salt Lake retired the side in order just 10 times. Tacoma put runners in scoring position 12 times — in the ninth inning Friday, in six frames Saturday, and in five Sunday — but only managed three hits in those situations.
Late in games, the clutch hitting disappeared. Tacoma put the tying or go-ahead run on second with less than two outs in three of the final four innings Saturday — including its free runner in the 10th inning — and two of the final three frames Sunday, but couldn’t do anything with it either game.
Saturday, with a runner on second and no outs in the 10th inning, Listach chose not to bunt Ian Miller to third and put him in a place to score on an out — like the Bees had done in the top of the frame. A pop-up, a strikeout, and a flyout later, the game was over with Miller still standing on second.
“We were playing for the win,” Listach said after the loss. “I had faith in those guys getting it done in the 10th, and we just didn’t get it done.”
Maybe a change of venue will help. After Monday’s off day, Tacoma undertakes a nine-day, seven-game trip to Round Rock and then New Orleans.