Tacoma Rainiers

Rainiers slip up in close contest with Chihuahuas, 7-6

After three blowout games to open the season, the Tacoma Rainiers and the El Paso Chihuahuas settled into a tight, back-and-forth affair Sunday afternoon.

On bring your dog to the ballpark day in El Paso, the Chihuahuas prevailed.

Tacoma lost to El Paso, 7-6, and missed out on a chance to win a series on the road to open the season. Instead, Tacoma split the four-game set.

Sunday’s game featured five lead changes. El Paso’s Brett Wallace drove in the final run of the game with a tiebreaking RBI single with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning against Tacoma reliever Justin Germano.

“Germano made some good pitches, but it didn’t go our way,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “Wallace had two big hits.”

Wallace singled in the go-ahead run twice — his two-out RBI single in the sixth gave El Paso a 6-5 lead.

Tacoma threatened to pull away for the third game in a row. Down 2-1 going to the fourth, Jesus Montero and Pat Kivlehan homered during a four-run rally that gave Tacoma a 5-2 lead.

But Rainiers starting pitcher Mike Kickham had a wild Mariners organization debut. He walked or hit the leadoff batter with a pitch in four of the five innings he pitched, and was constantly in trouble. He ended up allowing five runs in 41/3 innings on six hits and five walks.

El Paso took the lead with a run in the bottom of the sixth and had the bases loaded with two outs. Chihuahuas slugger Cody Decker launched a fly ball to deep center field, and James Jones made a leaping catch along the warning track and awkwardly crashed into the padded outfield fence.

The catch saved three runs from scoring, but it came at a cost: Jones took one more at-bat and then left the game with a shoulder injury.

“He had a stinger in his shoulder,” Listach said. “He said it went numb for a little bit, but he feels better already. We’ll see how he feels Monday.”

Short Hops

Rehabilitating Mariners infielder Chris Taylor played the entire game as the designated hitter, going 0 for 5. … Carlos Rivero continued his hot hitting, going 1 for 2 with a double and a sacrifice fly. He’s 9 for 15 on the season.

On Tap

The road trip continues with a four-game series in Albuquerque starting with Monday’s game at 5:35 p.m. (PDT). Tacoma starts left-hander Mike Montgomery against Albuquerque right-hander Jair Jurrjens.

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers