Portland has been out of contention in the Pacific Coast League Pacific North Division for quite some time, but that doesn't mean the Beavers can't embrace the role of spoiler.
Despite sporting the PCL’s worst record, surging Portland opened up its five-game road series against Tacoma with a 2-0 victory over the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium on Wednesday.
Wily Mo Peña homered and drove in two, providing all the offense the Beavers needed. It was the fifth consecutive win for Portland (53-79), and the eighth road victory in a row.
“Can’t win if you can’t score and we didn’t have the hits tonight,” Tacoma manager Jose Castro said. “This is a different Portland team that we are playing against. They are much improved. I thought (Portland starter Cory Luebke) did a nice job out there tonight. He did a great job locating the plate and did really well pitching inside to us.”
The defeat didn’t cost Tacoma (68-63), which has lost four of its past five, in the standings as the Rainiers still enjoy a 2ß game lead over Salt Lake (66-66) in the PCL Pacific North standings after the Bees dropped a 7-3 contest at Colorado Springs.
Tacoma has 12 games remaining in the regular season – none against Salt Lake – with the next eight at home before closing with a four-game series against PCL Pacific South-leading Fresno.
The Rainiers are attempting to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1982.
Luebke (5-0) gave up five hits with four strikeouts over eight scoreless innings before Luis Perdomo notched the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Mauricio Robles (1-1), making his third start for the Rainiers since being promoted from Double-A West Tennessee, allowed two four hits and two runs over six innings, striking out eight and walking six .
Robles looked sharp early, fanning six of the first 11 batters he faced and giving up two hits through four innings.
His lone miscue, however, got the Beavers on the scoreboard in the top of the second, as Peña took the first pitch he saw and crushed it over left field, giving Portland the early 1-0 advantage.
Robles walked two batters with two outs in the fourth, but got out of the jam by striking out Dusty Ryan on three pitches to end the threat.
A Peña double in the third scored Everth Cabrera, pushing Portland’s lead to 2-0.
The Rainiers continue a five-game home series against the Beavers at 7 p.m. today. Michael Pineda (3-3, 4.14 ERA) takes the mound for Tacoma. Josh Geer (10-10, 5.46) starts for Portland.