RENO, NEV. –Don't blame the 5,177 fans at Aces Ballpark on Monday night if they were unsure which of the two teams on the field was in first place and which one was in last.
The cellar-dwelling Aces blasted the first-place Rainiers, 12-7, in a Pacific Coast League game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
The Rainiers saw their lead in the standings cut by a game. Second-place Salt Lake defeated Sacramento, 7-6, to pull to 2ß games behind Tacoma with 14 to go.
Reno scored run after run during the middle innings, building an 11-0 lead going into the eighth inning.
Ryan Rowland-Smith (2-2) started for Tacoma, and he had some bad luck early.
Neither team had scored when the Aces had runners at the corners and one out in the bottom of the third. Cole Gillespie hit an apparent inning-ending double-play grounder to shortstop, but the ball was bobbled by Jeff Dominguez, and only one out was recorded while a run scored.
A single and a walk later the bases were loaded for Yunesky Sanchez. Rowland-Smith broke Sanchez’s bat with a pitch, but Sanchez was still able to loop the ball into center field for a two-run single, making it 3-0.
Doug Deeds homered to center in the fourth for Reno, and the Aces scored three runs after there were two outs and nobody on base in the fifth – making it 7-0.
Kevin Mulvey (7-8) earned the win for Reno, tossing five scoreless innings.
Former Mariners pitcher Mike Hampton relieved Mulvey and pitched a scoreless sixth, giving up a double to David Winfree. Hampton, a 148-game winner in his major league career, was pitching in his first game of 2010 after signing a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. The 37-year-old had shoulder surgery last Fall.
Winfree went 3-for-5 for Tacoma, with two doubles. Tug Hulett doubled in the eighth and homered in the ninth as the Rainiers scored seven runs over the final two innings.
There was a rare 7-8 putout in the fourth inning. Ed Rogers hit a fly to shallow left-center, and left fielder Mike Wilson made a diving attempt. The ball hit his glove, bounced up into the air, and was caught by center fielder Greg Halman. Wilson then left the game with an undisclosed injury. Matt Mangini was in the original lineup at third base, but he was scratched due to a hip pointer. Halman ended a string of 15 straight games with at least one strikeout. He K’d 29 times during the 15 games, and he leads the league with 149 strikeouts.
The series and the road trip ends with at 7:05 game tonight. Tacoma sends Blake Beavan (2-1, 5.04 ERA) to the mound against Reno’s Matt Torra (10-6, 4.07).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.