Tacoma opened its final home series of the season with an offensive whimper, logging just six hits and one run in a 3-1 to El Paso.
Casey Lawrence gave Tacoma its third good start in as many games, allowing just one run seven innings. He struck out six and rolled a pair of double plays, notching his third start of at least seven innings this season and his fourth straight with just one run allowed.
“He hadn’t been that far in a long time,” Rainiers manger Pat Listach said after the game. “It was good to see, and he kept us in the game.”
But the way the El Paso staff pitched, the Chihuahuas didn’t need much in the way of scoring. Eric Lauer struck out three in 3 ⅓ innings in his second rehab start, three other pitchers combined to keep the Rainiers off the board for the first seven innings, and El Paso added an insurance run in the top of the eighth.
Tacoma finally broke onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth on a Guillermo Heredia sacrifice fly, but any chance the Rainiers had of compounding it into a rally died as Daniel Vogelbach, nursing a minor hamstring injury, couldn’t stop at third, blew through a stop sign, and was thrown out the plate to end the frame.
“If you run through a stop sign, you better be safe,” Listach said. “But he said he couldn’t stop; his hammy locked up.”
The Chihuahuas tacked one more on in the top of the ninth, and Carter Capps worked around a free runner for his first save of the season.
Anthony McIver, making his first appearance with the Rainiers since June 2, allowed a hit and a run. Marc Rzepczynski allowed a run on two hits.
The series will continue at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow. Bryan Evans is slated to start against Dillon Overton. With Salt Lake’s win over Fresno, the Chihuahuas will have to wait to clinch their division, though they will do so tomorrow with a win or a loss by the Bees.
David Rollins had a 714-day break between appearances at Cheney Stadium, and in that time, a fair bit changed.
Rollins himself had gone to the Cubs organization, spending a year in Triple-A Iowa, before being released and making his way in independent ball, and switched back to starting. The Rainiers had undertaken changes themselves, with just two players remaining (or back) from his first previous stint in Tacoma.
“When I was here in 2016, it was a different type of clubhouse,” Rollins said before Friday’s game at Cheney Stadium. “We had a bunch of younger guys, and me and two other guys were the veterans on the team. Now I feel like I’m one of the younger guys, listening to these guys talk, watching them, and seeing what they do and how they go about their business.”
Rollins’ first start back in Tacoma in 2018 didn’t look great in the box score: eight runs on eight hits (including three home runs) in 5 ⅓ innings. In his second, he got just one more out, but looked a lot better doing so, keeping Reno off the board and allowing just five hits.
“I feel good,” Rollins said. “The first start was a little rough; I think I was more excited about being back out here than worrying about throwing strikes. I felt better yesterday, which is a plus.”
The change for Rollins can be seen most starkly in his pitch count. In his two starts for Tacoma, he threw 173 pitches, more than in his last 10 relief appearances combined in 2016. But compared to the beginning of this season, his workload has been downright light; in indie ball, he surpassed 115 pitches in five of his 16 starts.
Part of the move back to Tacoma for Rollins has been the chance to work with pitching coach Lance Painter again, something that he’s relished.
“The role’s different, but me and ‘Paint’ still have a good relationship,” Rollins said. “We mess with each other a lot. He’s a real good guy and a good dude to have your back. He’s helped me a lot from being a reliever until now, working on a few things with my mechanics. He’s getting me back right.”
Perkins heating up
After a broken finger kept him off the field for nearly a month to begin the summer and a hamstring injury sidelined him again in July, Cameron Perkins is finally fully back in the swing of things. And not a moment too soon.
“It’s been nice to stay healthy for an extended period of time,” Perkins said. “Especially with all the movement with everyone, I’ve had more opportunities to play more often. It’s a lot easier to play when you play every day.”
Perkins entered Friday on a seven-game hitting streak, the longest active streak on the team. In that span, he’s hitting .333 with six RBIs. On Friday he had the chance to lead off, the first time he’s been slotted at the top of the order this year.
Feeling good with 10 games to go, it’ll be all about finishing strong — and healthy.
“It’s not exactly how I planned the season going out,” Perkins said. “But I’m hoping to make the best out of August, and I think I have. We still have a couple weeks left to keep playing well and take it into the offseason.”