Chien-Ming Wang’s past two starts for the Tacoma Rainiers were stellar. He allowed only a combined three runs and 10 hits in 16 innings over those two wins.
Tuesday against the Memphis Redbirds was something different.
Wang was shelled early, and the Rainiers’ bats never got on track in an 8-2 drubbing by the Redbirds.
After the Rainiers’ bullpen shouldered heavy loads the prior two games, one of which being James Paxton’s rehab assignment where he didn’t get out of the first inning, Rainiers manager Pat Listach was hoping to get at least seven innings out of Wang.
Wang lasted five innings but had to gut out the last couple after a crushing start to the game. Memphis put three runs on Tacoma in the first inning — a lead the Redbirds never relinquished. The highlight was Dan Johnson’s 14th home run this season — a two-run shot that drove in Dean Anna, who had singled ahead of him.
“He ran into a hot-hitting team,” Listach said of Wang. “He left some pitches up and they took advantage of them.”
The second inning was worse. After a leadoff single by Aledmys Diaz, a throwing error from Wang following an infield single put runners at second and third. Anna drove one in with soft single to center field. Then Johnson cleared the bases with his second homer, and Memphis led 7-0.
“Dan Johnson is a really good player, in this league for a long time and in the big leagues,” Listach said. “He’s hit some big home runs in the playoffs and he hit a couple tonight.”
Memphis scored a single run in the third inning to extend its lead to 8-0.
Wang gave up 13 hits and eight runs, one of which was unearned. He walked one and struck out three.
The Rainiers lost on the scoreboard but also lost one of their hottest players. In his first at-bat, Jabari Blash exited the game after coming up limping on a swing and miss.
Listach said Blash is day to day with a minor hamstring injury, but he added that Blash already asked if he could play tomorrow.
Blash has been a big addition for the Rainiers, doing his part to replace the offensive production lost when Franklin Guttierez and Jesus Montero were called up to the big leagues. He has 16 home runs since the All-Star break, which leads all minor league players players. His 32 RBIs are third in the Pacific Coast League during that span.
Stefen Romero ranks favorably in most Pacific Coast League hitting categories this season but had a lackluster night at the plate Tuesday going 0 for 4. ... Leury Bonilla was working on a six-hitting streak, but it was snapped with an 0 for 3 night. ... Sam Gaviglio saw his first action with the Rainiers since he started a game against Fresno on July 4. He appeared in relief of Wang, throwing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
The four-game series with Memphis concludes on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma sends left-hander Tyler Olson (2-4, 5.09 ERA). He will face off against Redbirds right-hander Arturo Reyes (0-1, 7.71).