The Tacoma Rainiers’ recent success at Cheney Stadium carried over to the road Saturday night — that is, until a fast and disastrous bottom of the ninth inning.
Trying to preserve a three-run lead, usually reliable closer Jonathan Aro gave up four runs on five hits, ending with Dilson’s Herrera’s one-out line drive down the right-field line that scored Kyle Johnson for the winning run as the Rainiers lost, 8-7, in front of 8,201 at Cashman Field.
“This is the first time he has been hit like this all year,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said of Aro, who threw only 18 pitches. “I didn’t get anybody up. This guy has been lights out. This is the first time our bullpen has been hit like that all year. Our bullpen has been solid.”
Aro (2-2) had allowed only two hits and one earned run in his previous 11 outings, which totaled 16 innings. This was his second blown save of the season.
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Kyle Johnson’s double off the left-field wall scored Gavin Cecchini to tie the game. All five hits Aro allowed were liners, including three doubles.
“We’ve won some games we shouldn’t have won, but every once in awhile, you get games like this,” Listach said. “I wish we could play all our games at home.”
With the temperature at 106 degrees when the game began, pitcher Sam Gaviglio got his first start since being promoted to Tacoma.
Gaviglio, who had 11 starts at Double-A Jackson, was impressive after surrendering two first-inning runs. He faced the minimum over the next four innings and finished six-plus innings allowing five hits, three runs and a walk while striking out four. The right-hander, who threw 82 pitches — 50 for strikes —made 21 starts last year for the Rainiers.
“Unfortunately, we had to start him this season in Double-A,” Listach said. “We didn’t have room for him in the rotation. Someone told me a long time ago, ‘It’s not where you pitch, but how you pitch.’ He took the ball every five days in Double-A.”
Dario Pizzano went 3 for 4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored for the Rainiers (33-22). Boog Powell went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.
In the eighth, the Rainiers scored what seemed to be two insurance runs. Pizzano’s homer to right field just cleared the 20-foot-high fence with two outs. Powell then followed with a hustle triple to right center — and when right fielder Travis Taijeron couldn’t pick up the ball off a long carom, Powell scored easily, giving the Rainiers a 6-3 lead.
Chris Taylor’s ninth-inning homer to left off winning pitcher Chasen Bradford (3-1) put the Rainiers up 7-4.
The Rainiers took a 2-1 lead in the second inning against 51s starter Rafael Montero on a Pizzano triple to right center and a Powell single to left. Montero went seven innings, allowing nine hits and four runs.
Mike Baxter (3 for 4, RBI, run) and Efren Navarro (2 for 5, two runs) also contributed for the Rainiers.
Tacoma will start right-hander Andrew Kittredge (0-0, 0.00 ERA) against 51s righty Seth Lugo (3-3, 7.28) at noon Sunday in the second game of a four-game series. The game can be heard on 850-AM.