The Tacoma Rainiers can only play spoiler against the Las Vegas 51s in this last regular-season series.
From the third inning on Friday night, it was evident that the Rainiers would not even do that as they fell 9-4 in front of 7,573 at Cashman Field.
Tacoma starting pitcher Adrian Sampson, who won his Tacoma debut on Aug. 2 in Las Vegas, did not have the same result. Sampson lasted 4 innings, allowing seven runs — five earned — on 10 hits. Sampson (2-4) gave up four runs in the third inning, and three in the fourth.
“To be honest, he pitched well. I could only recall two hits that were really hard,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “He made a lot of good pitches. There were a lot of soft hits in there. He competed. It’s tough in this ballpark with a fast infield.”
The 51s are battling El Paso for first place of the PCL Pacific Southern Division as only the winner goes to postseason. El Paso lost at Reno on Friday night, giving Las Vegas a 1/2 game lead.
“I don’t even like the term (spoiler),” Listach said. “Whatever happens to them over there, more power to them. If they win it, they win it. If they lose it, they lose it.”
Chris Taylor (3-for-4, RBI) led the Rainiers, reaching base four times, including on a sixth-inning triple just to right of the 433-foot sign in center field. A batter later, Taylor scored on a Mike Zunino (2-for-4, two RBIs) single against Las Vegas starting and winning pitcher Dillon Gee (8-3), who went 7 innings, allowing one run on four hits, a walk, while striking out seven on 95 pitches.
The Rainiers scored three in the ninth as James Jones, Taylor, and Zunino all had RBI singles with the bases loaded and one out. However, Patrick Kivlehan grounded into a double play to end it against reliever John Church, who just entered the game.
On Friday, Tacoma right fielder Jabari Blash was named PCL Player of the Month for August. Blash hit 14 home runs in the month, most by any professional baseball player any month this season. He also led the league in total bases (75), extra-base hits (18), RBI (27), slugging percentage (.750), and OPS (1.131).
“He’s definitely deserving of it,” Listach said. “He’s had a really good second stint here in Triple-A. Early in the year, he wasn’t playing much, but he went down to Double-A and he came back up here and he got real hot.”
Blash sat out Friday night with a sore right knee after a sliding catch at Salt Lake earlier this week. Listach said Blash is “day-to-day” and hopes he will play in the last three games, possibly as a designated hitter.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Southern Division will play Fresno, which has clinched the Northern Division, in the first round best-of-five PCL playoffs starting next week.
The Rainiers play the 51s in the second game of the four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Tacoma LHP Mike Montgomery (4-3, 3.94 ERA) will face LHP Darin Gorski (10-8, 5.12). The game can be heard on 850-AM.