The Tacoma Rainiers entered Friday’s game at El Paso with one of the top defenses in the Pacific Coast League. The Rainiers were tied for fewest errors in the league — just 64 in the first 113 games — and ranked second in fielding percentage.
So what happened on Friday?
Tacoma made four errors, leading to five unearned runs, in a 7-5 loss at El Paso.
“Any time you make four errors you don’t expect to win, but we were still in position to win it,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “That tells you how good we’ve been playing. We don’t usually hurt ourselves with errors.”
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It was a complete turnaround from Thursday’s game, when the Rainiers scored eight unearned runs in a wild 16-15 win.
Friday’s game featured six lead changes, with Tacoma leading three times.
Mike Freeman led off the game with a homer to right field, just his second of the year in 360 at-bats, to make it 1-0.
Stefen Romero lifted a two-run homer to left field in the third, giving Tacoma a 3-2 lead.
After falling behind again, the Rainiers scored twice in the sixth to go up 5-4. Freeman’s two-out single brought home James Ramsey with the go-ahead run.
But back-to-back errors in the bottom of the seventh proved too much to overcome.
With Donn Roach on the mound, Nick Noonan singled to open the inning. Manuel Margot’s sharp grounder went in-and-out of Freeman’s glove at second base for an error, and then Roach misplayed a sacrifice bunt by Carlos Asuaje to load the bases.
Hunter Renfroe hit a sac fly to left to tie the score, and Austin Hedges grounded a single to right-center to score Margot and put the Chihuahuas up 6-5.
El Paso added another run in the eighth, when Patrick Kivlehan reached on catcher’s interference. Playing his first game for El Paso since being claimed off waivers from the Mariners on Wednesday, Kivlehan swung and his bat hit Tacoma catcher Rob Brantly’s glove. Brantly was charged with Tacoma’s fourth error of the game, and Kivlehan eventually scored on a sac fly by Margot.
Rainiers starting pitcher Jarrett Grube was pulled after three innings due to stiffness in his neck and upper back. Listach said he expects Grube to make his next start.
Short Hops: The game stopped briefly in the first inning when Brantly pulled a foul ball into Tacoma’s dugout, striking Daniel Robertson on the left shoulder. Robertson recovered to pinch hit in the ninth inning… prior to the game, reliever Robert Dugger was transferred to Everett.
The series ends with a 6:05 (Pacific) game on Saturday night. Tacoma starts Joe Wieland (10-5, 5.57) against El Paso’s Daniel McCutchen (9-7, 6.18).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.