WEST SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - Michael Pineda had his strikeout pitch working, but it still wasn't enough to beat the Sacramento River Cats on Monday night at Raley Field.
The River Cats hit a pair of eighth-inning home runs to take a 7-5 Pacific Coast League win over the Rainiers.
For the second straight game, controversy surrounding a suspect umpiring decision affected the result.
Pineda matched a season-high by striking out 11, but he left the game after six innings with the score tied, 3-3.
Pineda gave up two home runs – the first he had allowed since April 17, or 75 innings pitched ago. Matt Carson launched a full-count pitch over the wall in left-center for a solo shot in the second inning, and Steve Tolleson pulled a first-pitch fastball down the left field line for a homer to lead off the fourth.
Both of the home runs came on fastballs to players with major league experience – the type of hitters the Mariners want the 21-year-old Pineda to face with Tacoma.
“His stuff was good, 11 strikeouts tell you that,” said Rainiers manager Daren Brown. “You’ve got some guys here where it doesn’t matter if you’re throwing 97-98 mph – they’re gonna catch up to it.”
Pineda threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes. He completed his outing by escaping a sixth-inning jam with a strikeout, throw-out double play.
After Pineda was finished, the Rainiers scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning off veteran Jamey Wright to take a 5-3 lead. Adam Moore singled in the go-ahead run, and Jack Hannahan followed with a bases-loaded walk.
The umpires struck in the bottom of the eighth – although some smooth fielding would have eliminated that.
After Tolleson opened the inning with a single off Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Traber relieved and got Matt Watson to tap a possible double-play grounder to shortstop Chris Woodward, who fumbled the ball briefly before flipping the ball to Hannahan for a forceout at second base – except base umpire Ken Durham called the runner safe. Hannahan and Brown argued the decision, but to no avail.
“It looked like we had an out, but the frustrating thing is it should have been a double-play ball, and we don’t make the play,” said Brown. “Against a good club that’s playing well, you’ve got to make those plays.”
With one out in the inning, Dallas McPherson pulled a pitch from Traber (0-1) to right field for a three-run homer, giving Sacramento a 6-5 lead. It was McPherson’s seventh homer of the season – and his fifth in 10 games.
Josh Donaldson hit a two-out homer to left field for insurance run.
Sacramento is on a five-game winning streak and has won 12 of 15, including the first three of this series.
Tacoma (40-38) fell into a first place with Salt Lake, which beat Reno, 5-3.
This series concludes with an 11:35 a.m. game today. PCL earned run average leader Luke French (8-2, 2.27 ERA) will start for Tacoma against Sacramento’s Travis Banwart (1-0, 3.00).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.