Tacoma Rainiers

Three early homers dig Tacoma too deep a hole in slugfest

Reno struck for 10 runs in the first two innings — nine of them coming on three three-run home runs — as the Rainiers fell 12-7 to come out of the all-star break on a losing note.

Cheney Stadium turned into a launch pad Thursday night, with Tacoma and Reno combining for six homers. The Aces hit four of them, including three off of Andrew Moore, whose ERA rose to 13.50 after allowing 10 earned runs on seven hits in two innings of work.

“I thought he was just kind of in the middle of everything,” manager Daren Brown said after the game. “He made a couple of good pitches, but just wasn’t able to repeat them. They didn’t miss three of them. It was one of those nights.”

Erik Swanson, Ryan Garton, and Darin Gillies combined to see off the last seven innings, allowing just two runs on six hits, but the damage had already been done.

Tacoma struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, punctuated by a three-run home run off the bat of Ryan Court, his fourth homer of the year. During the rally, Ian Miller stole his 70th base in a Rainiers uniform, tying him for fifth all-time in franchise history.

A batter later, Tim Lopes stole second for Tacoma’s 101st steal of 2019, tying the Rainiers’ season total from last year.

Down 12-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Rainiers loaded the bases with one out, threatening to make things interesting, but a strikeout and a groundout ended the rally before any runs could come home. Tacoma rallied again in the top of the ninth, taking advantage of some rough defense, but could only scrape across one run before Tim Lopes flew out to center to end it.

“It’d be real easy to fold up the tent when you’re down 10-0 going into the bottom of the second, but I thought we did a pretty good job of battling back and giving ourselves a chance,” Brown said. “We were really just a couple hits away from it being a lot closer ballgame than what it looked like.”

Lopes, Court, and Kelby Tomlinson led the Tacoma offense, each putting together three-hit performances.

The Rainiers will face off against the Aces for the second matchup of their four-game series Friday night at 7:05 p.m., with Sean Nolin scheduled to start.

Nolin shortens his own break

After having to play seven in four days to wrap up the first half of the season, the Tacoma Rainiers had their longest break of the year with four days off for the Triple-A all-star break.

Rest is desirable but rust is not. Balancing that is always tricky.

“If they go out and do well (after the break) you think they’re ready to go and it did them some good,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said before Tacoma opened its series with Reno on Thursday night. “If they go out and don’t do well, you say it’s rust. I don’t play both sides, I expect us to play well.”

Friday’s starting pitcher Sean Nolin, though, definitely takes a side.

On the long road back from Tommy John surgery in 2016, Nolin is in his second season of rehab and his first with Tacoma. Last season in the Rockies organization with Double-A Hartford, Nolin might have spent a bit too much of the break resting.

“I thought taking a few days off then was probably a good idea, but coming back after that it felt a little more stiff than I’d probably like it to,” Nolin said.

So this year, coming off of one of the better outings of the season by a Tacoma pitcher, Nolin didn’t give himself the full six days off he could have had before his slot Friday night.

“I had a couple days off, but I didn’t take the whole break off,” Nolin said. “Have to keep moving around, be prepared for Game 2 of this series.”

Instead, after allowing one run on one hit and striking out eight in 7.1 innings against Fresno last Friday, Nolin cut into his own break. He gave himself the travel day Sunday off and spent Monday sightseeing in Seattle with his wife. On Tuesday, he was back at Cheney Stadium for a bullpen session.

After another workout Wednesday, the Rainiers officially came back to work Thursday, with Nolin completely on schedule.

And after being forced to spend over two and a half years between professional appearances following his surgery, “on schedule” is just where Nolin wants to be.

“I’m definitely getting past that elbow-wise,” Nolin said. “I’ve got my strength. I think I needed a little more time than normal, and everything’s been pretty good.”

Reinforcements

For a couple of Rainiers who had to finish the season off of the active roster, the break did come in handy. Shed Long, who was still nursing a minor shoulder injury, and Ryan Court, who had to attend to a family matter, were both in the starting lineup Thursday.

“They’re all good, ready to go,” Brown said.

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