The Rainiers nursed an early lead Saturday against the best pitching in the Pacific Coast League, but fell late due their own bullpen woes.
Brady Rodgers (6-3, 2.99 ERA), who had the lowest ERA in the PCL going into the game, and saves leader James Hoyt led Fresno to a 4-3 win over Tacoma at Cheney Stadium.
“We didn’t execute when we had a lead,” Rainiers coach Pat Listach said.
Fresno’s A.J. Reed produced a solo homer to put the Grizzlies up in the first, but Tacoma responded in the fifth, converting three hits into two runs. Patrick Kivlehan scored from third on a Boog Powell groundout, then Chris Taylor drove in Rob Brantly with a single.
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Tacoma’s starting pitcher Jarrett Grube pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing just one earned run (Reed’s homer) and struck out five, keeping him on par with Rodgers. But Grube was pulled early because his pitch count was seven over the planned 90.
A struggling Kraig Sitton entered with a one run lead in the seventh.
After allowing three earned runs on five hits in one inning Friday, Sitton gave up three runs in the seventh, picking up the loss, and recording just two outs.
“We had to use him,” Listach said. “That’s one of the guys that are available. Running on a short (bullpen) with the three guys we’ve sent to the big leagues, we had no other options and he just didn’t make the pitches he needed to make.”
Right-hander Emilio Pagan relieved Sitton, pitching a scoreless 2 1/3 innings in his debut with the Rainiers.
“He was great,” Listach said. “Didn’t want to use him as long as I did, but he was the last pitcher available. If that game goes extra innings we would have been in trouble.”
Tacoma called Pagan up Friday from Double-A Jackson.
Seattle optioned relief pitcher David Rollins back to Tacoma Saturday and will be activated for Sunday. Rollins pitched 1 ⅓ innings for the Mariners in Boston Friday. He conceded two hits, no runs, no walks and no strikeouts.
Luis Sardinas will be playing two to three games per week in the outfield, according to Listach. Sardinas’ two career appearances in the outfield came this year. He played left field in Seattle April 6 and in Tacoma May 16.
The Rainiers and Grizzlies play Sunday at 1:35 p.m. Tacoma starts right-hander Donn Roach (4-4, 4.72 ERA) against Fresno righty Mike Hauschild (5-6, 3.50).