Tacoma Rainiers

Rainiers end four-game losing streak on strong Paxton outing, O’Malley HR

Pat Listach was a little punch drunk seeing all the right-handed starting pitchers facing the Tacoma Rainiers — and that was just the view as the manager from the dugout.

Imagine what it was like for his hitters to finally face a left-hander on the mound Monday.

It was a welcomed sight.

But it didn’t last very long.

So the Rainiers went back to their usual ways of torturing right-handed pitching in getting key runs to fuel a 7-1 victory over Sacramento at Cheney Stadium.

Led by utility man Shawn O’Malley’s two-run home run, and ace pitcher James Paxton’s five strong innings, the Rainiers ended their four-game skid.

After a rough start to 2016, Paxton (2-2) is starting to find a groove. He has given up just an unearned run in his past two starts — a span of 11-plus innings.

Paxton said after many recent sessions of video review with pitching coach Lance Painter, the two figured out his arm slot had moved.

“Since I got hurt, I hadn’t really felt right,” Paxton said. “We finally figured out my arm slot was creeping higher and higher. We are getting it back down to the three-quarter (slot), which is definitely big for me.

His second-inning throwing error set up Sacramento’s lone run. Otherwise, he was stellar in an 88-pitch effort, giving up four hits and no walks, and striking out eight River Cats in five-plus innings.

For only the third time this season, Tacoma was facing a left-handed starter, which was something Listach was excited about given all the right-handed pop in his lineup with Stefen Romero, Mike Zunino and Ed Lucas.

But it was O’Malley’s two-out bunt single in the second inning off Sacramento’s Matt Lujan (0-3) that broke a 1-1 tie.

Lujan didn’t stick around for very long — he left in the third inning after suffering an apparent leg injury.

On came right-handed reliever Austin Fleet, who gave up two runs.

The big blow came in the fourth inning. O’Malley launched an 0-2 cutter just inside the right-field foul pole for his first home run of the season.

“I made an adjustment and scooted up a foot (before the 0-2 pitch),” O’Malley said. “Luckily he threw the same pitch in the same spot, and I was able to catch it and put it over the fence.”

Shortstop Chris Taylor saw his career-best, 14-game hitting streak end. But he did draw a walk to start the ninth inning to reach base in all 18 games this season. He stole second and later scored on Zunino’s RBI single to left.

BRUISED CHIHUAHUA

Taylor was the lead character in the team’s most amusing in-game moment this season.

In the seventh inning of last Tuesday’s game at El Paso, Taylor charged a slow grounder and unleashed a high throw that nailed “Chico the Chihuahua” — El Paso’s mascot — in the .

Chico took the throw off the chest, fell back and laid sprawled out in the dugout for the television cameras to get footage of.

In between innings, Listach asked the man behind the mask if he was OK. Chico, indeed, had a sore chest.

He apparently also had a bruised ego, because over the next couple of days, the mascot made short promotional videos declaring Taylor a villain.

It was all in good fun, of course.

“I thought it was pretty funny,” Taylor said. “Whenever you can get a kick out of anything playing this game — it can be really serious — you do it. And that is something I have been focusing on this season — having fun and enjoying the moment.”

SHORT HOPS

Tacoma had its first roster transaction Monday. Reliever Mayckol Guaipe was promoted to Seattle, and Jordan Pries — who spent the season in Tacoma last season — came up from Double-A Jackson. … Even though he came on in the sixth inning, Johnson is expected to fill Guaipe’s eighth-inning role, Listach said. He signed with the organization as a free agent in March. … Zunino’s 22 RBIs are tied with New Orleans’ Destin Hood for the PCL lead. … Infielder Tyler Smith was plunked in the helmet in the fourth inning and removed from the game. Listach said Smith will be OK, but will likely miss the home finale Tuesday.

ON TAP

The Rainiers finish off their quick stay in Tacoma with an 11:35 a.m. series finale against Sacramento. Right-hander Adrian Sampson (2-1, 4.24 ERA) goes for the Rainiers, with Albert Suarez (0-2, 3.46), another right-hander, pitching for the River Cats.

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