The Tacoma Rainiers’ pitching staff has issued the fewest walks of any Pacific Coast League team this season, but that doesn’t mean the pitchers always have pinpoint control.
Rainiers pitchers walked seven Sacramento batters, with three coming around to score, in a 5-2 series-opening loss at Raley Field on Tuesday night.
Starter Brad Mills allowed only two hits in six innings, but gave up four runs because both hits were home runs — and one of them came after a pair of walks.
Then, with Tacoma trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, reliever Emilio Pagan issued a two-out walk, gave up a single, and then walked the next two batters to force in another run and make it 5-2.
“Bad game all around,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We didn’t give up many hits, but we walked seven guys. You’ve got to make (Sacramento) earn their hits — they haven’t been swinging the bats well. We can’t give them seven walks.”
Early on, it looked like it might be Tacoma’s night.
Mills gave up a leadoff homer to the River Cats’ Gorkys Hernandez in the first inning, but appeared to settle down.
Tacoma tied the game in the third inning when catcher Rob Brantly homered to center field against Fresno starter Chris Heston.
Brantly nearly homered again with two outs in the fifth, driving a ball high off the fence in right-center for a double. Boog Powell followed with a double of his own, scoring Brantly to give the Rainiers a 2-1 lead.
But Mills walked Juan Ciriaco with one out in the bottom of the fifth, and then issued another free pass with two outs to Hernandez. Former New York Mets infielder Ruben Tejada followed with a long three-run home run down the left field line, putting Sacramento in front 4-2.
Heston (2-8) lasted seven innings, allowing two runs and only four hits. He and reliever Steven Okert combined to walk just one Rainiers hitter.
The Rainiers have scored just four runs over the last three games, with several key players struggling on offense.
“It’s still the same three-four-five hitters,” Listach said. “Efren Navarro, Stefen Romero, Mike Zunino — when they don’t hit, we don’t score. We need the middle of the lineup to hit.”
That trio combined to go 1 for 11 on Tuesday night.
Recently acquired right-hander Zach Lee reported to the Rainiers, and Listach said that Lee will start Thursday’s game in Sacramento. Lee was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for infielder Chris Taylor on Sunday. Lee made 13 starts in the PCL for Oklahoma City, going 7-5 with a 4.89 ERA.
The teams meet for the second game of the series on Wednesday at 7:05. Tacoma starts Joe Wieland (5-4, 7.52) against Sacramento’s Ty Blach (6-4, 4.41).