The Tacoma Rainiers closed what they call "original Cheney Stadium" Thursday the same way the Tacoma Giants opened the place in 1960: with a loss.
The Rainiers ran into too much Colorado Springs pitching to overcome a wobbly first inning, and fell to the Sky Sox, 3-1.
The game played out before a crowd of 8,286 fans who turned out to say goodbye to the old stadium – at least as it has looked over its first 51 seasons.
On Tuesday, ground will be broken on a $30 million renovation that will add suites, a right-field berm, a 4,000-square-foot club/ restaurant, and a new wooden entryway to a seating bowl that will remain much as it was when the stadium opened April 16, 1960, with the Portland Beavers defeating Tacoma, 7-2.
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The current Rainiers had hoped to give the stadium a better sendoff – especially in the midst of a pennant race in which their magic number remains stubbornly stuck at three.
Tacoma’s lead over Salt Lake was trimmed to 1ß games when the Bees beat Fresno by the same 3-1 score.
Colorado Springs scored two runs on two hits and an error in the first inning.
And while starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith held the Sky Sox scoreless over his final six innings, that was more than his teammates could overcome against Colorado Springs starter Greg Smith and two relievers.
“You want to pitch well every time, but it was an important game – especially the last game in Cheney Stadium,” Rowland-Smith said. “But the negative side of that – we’ve got such a good lineup, it’s bizarre to see this lineup only score one run – I think some of that comes because guys are pressing a little bit and really trying to get it done, trying to do a little too much. If we just kind of sit back and let the game come to us a little bit more and let this lineup do what they’re capable of doing.”
Tacoma’s offense managed five hits – all singles – and only in the fourth and sixth innings did runners reach scoring position. The Rainiers’ lone run – the final one by the home team in original Cheney – was scored by Dustin Ackley on a Justin Smoak single.
“I haven’t thought about that,” Ackley said. “We lost the game. The run doesn’t mean anything.”
The loss, however, has meaning in the PCL Pacific North standings, where it combined with Salt Lake’s win to drop Tacoma’s lead to a game and a half with only a four-game series in Fresno remaining.
“Obviously, we wanted to get the win, finish with a bang here at Cheney, with the great support that we have,” manager Jose Castro said. “And really throughout the entire Seattle Mariners’ organization we want to say ‘thank you,’ because they’ve been very loyal.”
If the Rainiers clinch in California, the home games for at least their first playoff series will be played at Safeco Field.
Before the game, the Rainiers handed out three player-of-the-year honors.
Luke French was honored as the Rainiers’ pitcher of the year, Matt Mangini won offensive player of the year, and center fielder Greg Halman won as defensive player of the year.
The Rainiers open their regular season-ending four-game series at Fresno at 7:05 p.m.
Starting pitchers will be right-handers Blake Beavan of Tacoma (2-2, 6.69) vs. Kevin Pucetas (5-7, 5.54).