After three blowout games to open the season, the Tacoma Rainiers and the El Paso Chihuahuas settled into a tight, back-and-forth affair Sunday afternoon.
On bring your dog to the ballpark day in El Paso, the Chihuahuas prevailed.
Tacoma lost to El Paso, 7-6, and missed out on a chance to win a series on the road to open the season. Instead, Tacoma split the four-game set.
Sunday’s game featured five lead changes. El Paso’s Brett Wallace drove in the final run of the game with a tiebreaking RBI single with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning against Tacoma reliever Justin Germano.
Never miss a local story.
“Germano made some good pitches, but it didn’t go our way,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “Wallace had two big hits.”
Wallace singled in the go-ahead run twice — his two-out RBI single in the sixth gave El Paso a 6-5 lead.
Tacoma threatened to pull away for the third game in a row. Down 2-1 going to the fourth, Jesus Montero and Pat Kivlehan homered during a four-run rally that gave Tacoma a 5-2 lead.
But Rainiers starting pitcher Mike Kickham had a wild Mariners organization debut. He walked or hit the leadoff batter with a pitch in four of the five innings he pitched, and was constantly in trouble. He ended up allowing five runs in 41/3 innings on six hits and five walks.
El Paso took the lead with a run in the bottom of the sixth and had the bases loaded with two outs. Chihuahuas slugger Cody Decker launched a fly ball to deep center field, and James Jones made a leaping catch along the warning track and awkwardly crashed into the padded outfield fence.
The catch saved three runs from scoring, but it came at a cost: Jones took one more at-bat and then left the game with a shoulder injury.
“He had a stinger in his shoulder,” Listach said. “He said it went numb for a little bit, but he feels better already. We’ll see how he feels Monday.”
Rehabilitating Mariners infielder Chris Taylor played the entire game as the designated hitter, going 0 for 5. … Carlos Rivero continued his hot hitting, going 1 for 2 with a double and a sacrifice fly. He’s 9 for 15 on the season.
The road trip continues with a four-game series in Albuquerque starting with Monday’s game at 5:35 p.m. (PDT). Tacoma starts left-hander Mike Montgomery against Albuquerque right-hander Jair Jurrjens.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers