Veteran right-hander Matt Palmer has struggled at times this season, posting an ERA north of 4.50 and earning just one victory.
While he didn’t add to his win total Sunday, he did pitch one of his best games of the season in Tacoma’s 5-4 loss to Fresno at Cheney Stadium.
Palmer (1-7) allowed two runs — one earned — on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk in seven solid innings, before the bullpen coughed up a 4-2 lead.
“At the start of the season, injuries during spring training were kind of lingering and just bad mechanics,” Palmer said. “So the last start we kind of ironed some things out and worked from there. I can throw the ball where I want to and I’m not tied up on my backside or in my legs, it’s just nice and easy to get out front.”
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All-star reliever Logan Kensing came on in relief in the eighth inning, but gave up three runs on three hits to waste Palmer’s solid start. Todd Coffey came on to get the Rainiers out of the eighth.
“Kensing got in trouble a bit with a couple walks and a couple boopers and that’s how the game is,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “It’s one of those days where you tip your hat and go to the next day because there’s not much you can do about that.”
Fresno catcher drove in Nick Noonan with a single to pull within 4-3 and Kensing then walked two batters to load the bases. Tony Abreu then hit a two-run single to chase Kensing and bring on Coffey, who finished the game.
“That happens. (Kensing) has been outstanding all year,” Howell said. “He’s the guy I’m going to go with in the eighth. I have all the confidence in the world in him, it just didn’t work out today.”
Offensively, the Rainiers had a solid day, banging out nine hits. Humberto Quintero had a double for the seventh consecutive game, finishing 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Nick Franklin returned from a five-game absence to go 3-for-4, while Jesus Montero continued his hot hitting with a 2-for-4 day.
“Drive in runs with doubles, (Quintero’s) seeing the ball well,” Howell said. “If you can’t lead the league in home runs, you want to lead them in doubles.”
Tacoma enters the All-Star break at 46-50 overall and last in the Northern Division, 91/2 games behind Sacramento.
The Rainiers have the next three days off during the All-Star break. ... Infielders Nick Franklin, Gabriel Noriega, Chris Taylor and reliever Logan Kensing will represent Tacoma in the Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be played at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina. ... Tacoma resumes play at 7:05 p.m. July 17 against Reno. ... Right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker is slated to start for the Rainiers. Reno’s starter is to be determined.