The local boy succeeded and thereby ensured that the Tacoma Rainiers did not. For the most part, anyway.
The Rainiers finally got to Adam Conley and the New Orleans bullpen for three runs in the eighth inning, but the former Olympia High School and Washington State star still assembled one of his best starts of the season to lead the Zephyrs to a 6-4 victory on Friday night at Cheney Stadium.
And the 71/3 innings Conley pitched still qualified as the longest start of his Triple-A career. Pitching near his hometown for the first time as a professional, Conley held the Rainiers scoreless through seven innings, leaving the game after allowing just six hits and tying a career best with eight strikeouts.
His impressive outing allowed the Zephyrs to avoid being swept by the Rainiers, who won the first three games of the series.
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“He had a sneaky fastball, which made his changeup really good and really effective,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “His fastball was just firm enough where the changeup looks like a fastball, but he’s got about six or seven miles-per-hour off. He kept us off-balance with that.”
New Orleans scored all it needed in the first inning against Rainiers left-hander Tyler Olson, who has spent his minor-league career as a starting pitcher but began the season in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen before spending the last month on the disabled list with a knee contusion.
In his first start with the Rainiers this season, Olson allowed four runs on five hits and an error in the first inning. And those runs were driven in by four consecutive RBI singles with two outs.
But the numbers aren’t important for a pitcher simply trying to regain his form after injury.
“It felt all right,” Olson said. “Just kind of getting back in the swing of things. Trying to get to 100 percent. It’s definitely nice going out there and starting. That’s kind of what I’ve been used to.”
Said Listach: “His stuff was OK. We didn’t catch the ball behind him. But the most important thing is his health right now.”
Olson left the game after 12/3 innings — he threw 42 pitches, the range for which he was slated — and the Zephyrs already had enough runs to win. They added two more — one via Tacoma third baseman Leury Bonilla’s throwing error in the seventh inning that allowed Cole Gillespie to score from third base, and another thanks to consecutive doubles by Austin Wates and Miguel Rojas in the eighth.
Tacoma (25-31) moved only one runner past first base against Conley through the first seven innings, but catcher Steve Baron, shortstop Chris Taylor and second baseman Shawn O’Malley hit consecutive one-out singles against Conley in the eighth to chase him from the game.
Taylor eventually scored on a wild pitch by New Orleans reliever Grant Dayton, and O’Malley came home on Franklin Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly. Both runs were charged to Conley.
The Rainiers added another run in the ninth on Taylor’s RBI single and had runners on first and second with O’Malley representing the winning run at the plate, but he flew out to left field to end the game.
Tacoma begins a four-game series in Sacramento against the River Cats on Saturday (7:05 p.m.). Right-hander Stephen Landazuri (0-2, 10.34 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Rainiers.