After overcoming a pair of early deficits during Sunday afternoon’s game against the Fresno Grizzlies, the Tacoma Rainiers couldn’t quite triumph past a third.
But they were close, in spite of another walk-plagued outing by starting pitcher Mike Kickham.
Fresno won the game, 6-5, after Domingo Santana’s three-run home run off Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom gave the Grizzlies a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning.
The Rainiers (10-14) scratched out one run in the bottom of the ninth thanks to an RBI single by Patrick Kivlehan with two outs, though catcher John Hicks popped out to the third baseman in foul territory to end the game with Franklin Gutierrez in scoring position at second base.
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It snapped Tacoma’s three-game winning streak, and capped a back-and-forth affair that saw Fresno take a 1-0 lead on Santana’s solo homer in the first — which the Rainiers countered with Stefen Romero’s RBI single in the bottom half of that inning.
James Jones put the Rainiers ahead 2-1 with an RBI single in the second, scoring Carlos Rivero from second base with two outs. And Fresno tied it in the fourth inning, which Max Stassi led off with a solo homer off Kickham.
Kickham retired the next two batters, then walked the bases loaded before coaxing a groundout to escape mostly unscathed. But that was the last batter he faced, exiting the game after four innings, seven walks, two hits (both homers) and 91 pitches.
He’s now walked 28 batters in 21 innings this season.
“We’ve got to have pitchers take us deeper in the game. He understands that. He’s doing the best that he can,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “He’s trying some different things. We’re going to pinpoint it and figure it out.”
Hicks’ throwing error on a Fresno stolen base attempt led to a run in the top of the sixth, but he atoned for that mistake with an RBI double in the bottom half of the inning that tied the score 3-3.
Tacoma took the lead in the seventh on Jesus Montero’s RBI single, though Listach lamented that more damage should have been done. Montero’s hit came with the bases loaded and one out, but Shawn O’Malley tagged up at second base instead of playing it halfway, and had to stop at third base as a result.
Gutierrez struck out and Kivlehan flew out to left field to end the inning without any more runners crossing the plate.
“We had a chance to bust it open there, and we didn’t,” Listach said. “We only scored one, (and) they came back and scored three.”
Bawcom, who pitched three innings in relief, took the loss.
The Rainiers embark on an eight-game road trip beginning Monday in Salt Lake City, where Tacoma will play a four-game set against the Salt Lake Bees before traveling to Fresno for a four-game series against the Grizzlies. Tacoma is scheduled to start left-hander Mike Montgomery (1-2, 3.32 ERA) on Monday, with left-hander Adam Wilk (1-0, 0.52) starting for the Bees.
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