Bad luck in the first and ninth innings determined the outcome for the Tacoma Rainiers in a 2-1 loss to the Sacramento River Cats on Thursday night.
Two Sacramento pop flies fell in for singles in the first inning, leading directly to two runs.
And after getting shut down for eight innings by Sacramento starter Ty Blach, a questionable umpire’s call prematurely ended the Rainiers’ bid to tie the game or take the lead in the ninth.
Donn Roach got the start for Tacoma, going six innings and allowing the two runs.
The runs came mostly due to misfortune. With one out in the first inning, Kelby Tomlinson’s flare to right field barely eluded second baseman Tyler Smith’s attempt at a sliding catch. Then Ali Castillo hit a pop fly that dropped in fair territory behind first base, a few feet away from D.J. Peterson, who was struggling to gauge it in the wind.
Travis Ishikawa connected for the only hard-hit ball of the inning, a two-run double down the right field line.
“The first inning was tough, but we only allowed one hit after the third inning,” said Rainiers fill-in manager Andy McKay. “It was a clean game, and both teams controlled the strike zone.”
The score remained 2-0 until the ninth. Blach needed only 91 pitches to get through eight innings, and remained on the mound until Peterson led off the ninth with a single to left.
Jean Machi relieved Blach, and Patrick Kivlehan greeted him with a single to right to put the tying runners on base with nobody out.
After failing to get down a bunt, Luis Sardinas flied out to left field, and Zach Shank flied out to center.
Dario Pizzano’s infield single scored Peterson to make it 2-1, and runners were at first and second for Smith.
Smith had a patient at-bat, working a full count. He then took a pitch that appeared high for an apparent ball four — but not in the eyes of plate umpire Travis Eggert, who called it a game-ending strike three.
It was a strange finish for McKay, the Mariners director of player development, who is giving Pat Listach four days off.
“In the last inning we had a chance, but we didn’t get down a key bunt and then whatever, things happened,” shrugged McKay.
McKay did not argue the final called strike, although a frustrated Smith discussed it at length with Eggert while the River Cats celebrated the win.
Outfielder Ryan Strausborger was added to the Tacoma roster, making his debut as a pinch runner in the ninth inning. … Reliever Steve Johnson was placed on the seven-day disabled list with tricep soreness. … Johnson is the third Tacoma reliever to land on the disabled list, joining Mayckol Guaipe and Jonathan Aro.
Tacoma will send right-hander Joe Wieland (6-4, 6.45 ERA) to the mound at 7:05 p.m. Friday. Sacramento will start rehabilitating San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.