Taijuan Walker brought his ‘A’ game to the Dell Diamond in Round Rock on Thursday night – at least until the field turned into a mud bowl.
After five dominant innings – the last two pitched in a steady rain – a soaked Walker had trouble gripping the ball, lost his control and took the loss in Round Rock’s 5-3 win over Tacoma.
Walker allowed two hits and notched eight strikeouts in a dominant performance through the first five.
Even though the field was becoming muddy, the umpires had the teams play on in the sixth. The Rainiers scored a run in the top of the inning to take a 3-1 lead.
With the rain pouring down, Walker walked the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth before giving up a run-scoring single to Joey Butler.
He bounced back to strike out Mike Bianucci for his ninth whiff, but Alex Buccholz singled through the right side to bring in the tying run.
Tacoma second baseman Ty Kelly slipped in the mud while pursuing Buccholz’s single. Manager John Stearns argued that the umpires needed to call out the grounds crew to work on improving the field, and crew chief Kellen Levy finally relented.
“Taijuan Walker really pitched a great game, but he was negatively affected by the conditions in the sixth inning,” said Stearns. “I felt we shouldn’t have been on the field. We had guys slipping and sliding all over the field. Both sides were complaining.”
After a ten-minute field improvement delay – with the rain continuing to fall – play resumed.
Jonathan Arias relieved Walker after the delay, and Aaron Cunningham greeted him with a single to left. The ball skipped past left fielder Nate Tenbrink on the slick surface, and Cunningham tried to go to third. When he realized halfway there he was going to be thrown out, Cunningham stopped and slipped in the mud and was tagged out.
The umpires immediately called for more field work – and Stearns went berserk, wondering why they allowed play to continue one minute earlier. Stearns was ejected for his second time this season.
“I vented my frustration in a very harsh way against the umpires,” said Stearns.
After 26 more minutes of field maintenance, play resumed without interruption.
Walker (3-3) ended up being charged with five runs in 5 1/3 innings, on four hits and four walks. Put an asterisk on those numbers – four of the runs scored when the conditions were unplayable.
Former Rainiers Travis Blackley and Ryan Feierabend combined to limit Tacoma to three runs on five hits over eight innings. Cory Burns pitched the ninth, earning his 18th save.
The Rainiers return home to host the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in a five-game series starting Friday at 7:05 p.m. Tacoma starts Blake Beavan (4-5, 5.53) against Armando Gallaraga (0-2, 7.24) of the Sky Sox. A fireworks show will follow the game.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers