WEST SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - Two games into the 2011 season, and it looks like the bullpen will be a strength for the Rainiers.
Four Tacoma relievers combined to work five scoreless innings, helping the Rainiers to a 3-1 victory over the Sacramento River Cats.
The win evened Tacoma’s season record at 1-1. In the first two games of the year, Tacoma relievers have combined to pitch nine shutout innings.
Rainiers starter Blake Beavan needed the help. Beavan threw 35 pitches during a wild first inning, but he allowed only one run. He settled down and looked sharp for the next three innings, but a pitch count of 79 ended his day after four innings with the score tied at 1.
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Cesar Jimenez, making his first appearance for Tacoma since 2008, relieved Beavan and pitched 1† scoreless innings. Shoulder surgery severely limited him the past two seasons.
Jimenez (1-0) went on to earn the win as Tacoma took the lead in the top of the sixth. Alex Liddi hit a two-out double for his first Triple-A hit, and he scored moments later on a single to right off the bat of fellow newcomer Carlos Peguero.
The Rainiers made it 3-1 in the top of the seventh with another two-out rally. Dustin Ackley singled to center, and he scored on Greg Halman’s 350-foot low line-drive double to left.
Tacoma manager Daren Brown was pleased to see his new players contribute to the win.
“I thought it was big,” said Brown. “Liddi with his first hit, Peguero with three hits, and a big hit from Halman to give us the third run. It was a total team effort.”
Still, the lead had to be protected.
Major league veteran Justin Miller got into a jam in the bottom of the seventh, and was forced to face Sacramento slugger Chris Carter with the bases loaded and two outs. But Miller was able to strike out Carter swinging with a slider to end the threat.
“Miller got himself into a jam, but I thought Miller facing Carter with the bases loaded was a good matchup for us,” Brown said. “It was a big point in the game. We know what Carter can do, and with the bases loaded, he’s not the guy you want up there. Miller made some big pitches and got the out.”
Denny Bautista pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Chris Smith worked the ninth to earn the save. Smith led the PCL with 26 saves for Nashville last year.
Right fielder Peguero went 3-for-4 and also robbed Sacramento’s Jemile Weeks of a home run, leaping above the fence and knocking down Week’s drive in the third inning.
Tacoma sends 2010 PCL All-Star Chris Seddon (0-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound in the third game of the season at 7:05 tonight at Sacramento’s Raley Field. The River Cats are scheduled to start Yadel Marti. The game will be broadcast live on 850 AM.