The Tacoma Rainers’ pitching had been exceptional their past two games in response to less than desirable first innings.
Rainiers right-hander Jordan Pries continued that trend by throwing five strikeouts in five innings after yielding one run on two hits in the first, but the Rainiers lost to Omaha, 5-1, on Saturday night at Cheney Stadium.
Following the first run — which came on a double steal — Pries (9-7) retired 17 of his next 18 batters, but a two-run seventh dug a hole too deep for Tacoma.
Omaha starting pitcher Aaron Brooks was almost entirely the reason why the Rainiers couldn’t muster an offensive response. Brooks (11-3) pitched a complete game for the Storm Chasers, yielding six hits and one run in the first inning, while striking out four and walking one in his 111-pitch outing.
“(Brooks) probably threw the best game against us all year,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “Throwing strikes all the way to the end. We had a chance in the fourth to shake him up a little bit, but we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Tied at 1 in the seventh, Pries opened the inning with a walk and a single. Matt Fields delivered the biggest blow with a one-out RBI double to left for the go-ahead run, and Paul Janish followed with an RBI single.
“I stuck with my game plan for the most part,” Pries said. “There were a couple pitches I wish I would have changed after the fact. I wish I would have been a little bit more aggressive with the fastball that inning instead of trying to throw more off-speed pitches to strike guys out and not try to get ground balls and let the defense work.
“It happens. This is a tough league and there’s good hitters. If you miss pitches then it’s going to happen. It’s not an easy pill to swallow when you’re on the wrong hand of a pitcher’s duel.”
Pries was replaced by reliever Andrew Carraway, who retired the next two batters on a strikeout and popout to end the inning.
Carraway’s night was finished after giving up a walk and single with no outs in the eighth, and Lucas Luetge pitched in relief, but was also roughed up a bit.
Fields hit a homer on Luetge in the ninth to make it 5-1.
The Rainiers got back-to-back doubles from James Jones and Justin Smoak that initially tied the game at 1 in the fourth.
Ty Kelly drew a walk and Gabriel Noriega punched a single to right to load the bases, but Brooks retired John Hicks and Julio Morban to derail the threat.
Morban made an impressive play at center field in the sixth inning with a runner at second. Johnny Giavotella punched a shallow fly to between Morban and Jones at right field, and Morban dived to make the catch.
Pries forced a groundout to end the inning and keep the game tied at 1.
Tacoma’s postseason hopes became even slimmer after division-leading Sacramento beat Memphis, 6-3, on Saturday night.
COREY HART ON REHAB ASSIGNMENT
Corey Hart went 0-for-3 in eight innings as the designated hitter in his first rehabilitation assignment start in Tacoma. He was placed on the Mariners’ disabled list with a bruised knee on Aug. 2.
Hart joined Mariners’ right fielder Michael Saunders, who is in the middle of a rehab stint with the Rainiers while recovering from a strained left oblique. He missed his fourth straight game Saturday night because of an illness with flu-like symptoms.
The Tacoma Rainiers continue their eight-game homestand against the Iowa Cubs on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. PDT. Right-handed pitcher Forrest Snow (2-3, 3.06 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rainiers against right-hander Dallas Beeler (8-6, 3.80 ERA). The game can be heard on 850-AM.