Unlike the big-league ball club, offensive woes haven’t been a topic of concern in recent games for the Tacoma Rainiers.
In the eight games prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Reno Aces to kick off an 11-game homestand, the Rainiers averaged 8.25 runs per contest, posting double-digit hit totals in each game and boasting a .358 team batting average. Playing in high-altitude ballparks in seven of those eight games — Albuquerque and Reno — certainly helped on the recent road trip.
But those encouraging trends ended, for one game at least, with a 4-3 loss to the Aces in front of 3,087 fans at Cheney Stadium.
Reno starter Aaron Blair, who also started against the Rainiers on June 17, had a much different outing from six days earlier — when he allowed eight earned runs over four innings in an eventual 9-6 Tacoma win. This time around, he allowed only two hits through 62/3 innings and added four strikeouts. The Rainiers ended up getting to the bullpen just fine, albeit too little, too late.
All three Tacoma hits in the eighth — Chris Taylor, Shawn O’Malley and Jesus Montero consecutively — came off reliever J.C. Ramirez, starting with Taylor’s ground-rule double that one-hopped over the right-field foul pole. Montero’s RBI single and Stefen Romero’s sacrifice fly made it a 4-3 game. Montero finished 2 for 4 for his Pacific Coast League-leading 87th and 88th hits on the season.
“He (Blair) had a little better stuff than he did the last time,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We had chances late in the game and didn’t execute as well as we would’ve liked to. Who knows what would’ve happened.”
Tacoma (35-37) held a 1-0 lead until the sixth when troubles started for starter Justin Germano (six innings), who had cruised through five innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts. After retiring the first two batters in the sixth, he allowed back-to-back hits by Nick Evans and Jamie Romak, then loaded the bases with a walk to Mike Freeman.
Southpaw David Rollins, pitching on a rehabilitation assignment following an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, already was in the bullpen warming up, but before the damage was done, Peter O’Brien’s swing on a 2-2 count sent a ball into the left field seats for his 15th home run of the season and a 4-1 Reno lead.
Listach said for as well as Germano pitched up until that point, he deserved to get himself out of the inning.
“I knew his pitch count was getting up there,” Listach said.
Taylor’s one-out ground-rule double in the seventh extended his season-best hitting streak to 11 games. He’s now hitting .299 with two doubles and seven RBIs since the streak started June 12, raising his pre-hitting streak average from .270.
The Rainiers and Aces continue their three-game series at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. Tacoma sends out right-hander Forrest Snow (5-4, 2.48 ERA) while Reno’s pitcher had not been announced at press time.