RENO - The Tacoma Rainiers continued their struggles on the road, blowing an early 6-0 lead before dropping a 7-6 Pacific Coast League decision to Reno on Tuesday night. The Rainiers are now 1-14 in their past 15 road games.
Fortunately, the team opens up a nine-game homestand tonight, with the last-place Portland Beavers coming to town.
“Home-field advantage has been good to us,” said Tacoma manager Jose Castro. “But I know that Portland has been playing better baseball lately.”
Tacoma did catch one break on Tuesday: second-place Salt Lake lost at home to Sacramento, 7-4, meaning that the Bees still trail the first-place Rainiers by 2ß games. With 13 games remaining, the magic number for the Rainiers to clinch the Pacific North Division is 11.
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The Rainiers built a 6-0 lead by the second inning.
David Winfree extended his hitting streak to nine games with an RBI single in the first, and Justin Smoak lifted a three-run homer to right, making it 4-0.
Tug Hulett opened the second with a single to right field. Rob Johnson then lined a two-run homer to left, and the Rainiers had a 6-0 lead against Reno’s Matt Torra.
But Torra (11-6) retired 14 of 15 batters and lasted six full innings.
Tacoma starter Blake Beavan allowed a run in the second inning, and a two-run homer to Cole Gillespie in the third.
Reno’s big rally came in the fifth.
Gillespie singled home a run before Brandon Allen launched a go-ahead three-run homer to right-center. Allen has 25 home runs and 80 RBI this season.
Gillespie robbed the Rainiers of a run in the eighth inning, making a diving catch in center of Hulett’s potential tying hit with runners at the corners and two out.
PLAYOFF AT SAFECO?
With the $30 million Cheney Stadium renovation set to begin Sept. 3, the Rainiers announced Monday that if the team makes the playoffs, it will play its first-round home games at Safeco Field.
“I think it’s a great deal,” said Castro. “It would be great for the kids to go out there and experience that.”
Matt Mangini returned to the Tacoma lineup and went 3-for-5. He has 11 hits in his past 19 at-bats. Johnson’s home run was his first for the Rainiers since the 2008 season. Tacoma, with 156 homers, ranks second in the Pacific Coast League.
The Rainiers open a nine-game homestand at Cheney Stadium with the Portland Beavers in town for the first five. Tonight’s first game starts at 7. Tacoma is scheduled to start left-hander Mauricio Robles (1-0, 5.40 ERA) against Portland left-hander Cory Luebke (4-0, 3.44).