After stringing together consecutive and decisive wins with a combined 18 runs in two games, the Rainiers’ pitching deficiencies began to show Sunday.
Tacoma led 5-1 going into the seventh inning, then gave up seven unanswered runs in a 8-5 loss to Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium.
Three days after Tacoma lost four pitchers — three to injury, one to an opt-out clause — the 51s were able to muster 12 hits against the Rainiers. Las Vegas has three players in the Pacific Coast League’s top 10 in batting averages: T.J. Rivera (.351), Gavin Cecchini (.329) and Brandon Nimmo (.328).
Pitcher Gabriel Ynoa, who has a PCL-best nine wins, kept the Rainiers off the scoreboard through the first three innings. With runners on first and third, Ynoa forced Rob Brantly to fly out to get out of a jam in the first inning.
But Tacoma scored in the second when Luis Sardinas popped an RBI single just short of 51s center fielder Roger Bernadina, followed by Dario Pizzano’s RBI groundout.
Rainiers starter Joe Wieland pitched into the fifth inning without giving up a run, but his final pitch of the night came in the sixth when Travis Taijeron connected on a solo homer with two outs, bringing the 51s to within 2-1.
Tacoma’s strongest inning came in the fifth, powered by back-to-back solo homers from D.J. Peterson and Brantly. Peterson finished 1 for 3, continuing a streak that Rainiers manager Pat Listach called his best at-bats since signing with the Mariners.
During the seventh and eighth innings, the Rainiers’ gave up a combined seven runs, with five being earned.
Two newcomers, righties Kevin Munson and Guido Knudson, made their Rainiers debuts. Munson came in with one out and the bases loaded and gave up three hits and two runs (one earned) before ending the sixth with a strikeout. Knudson conceded three hits and a run in one inning pitched.
Munson and Knudson were called up to fill roster spots after Tacoma lost Jonathan Aro and Brad Mills to the disabled list, Casey Coleman to an opt-out clause and Jarrett Grube to blisters. Munson and Knudson recently played on teams from the Independent League teams.
“You lose four pitchers in one day, you’ve got to find four pitchers to replace them,” Listach said. “(They) can’t always come from Double-A. Can’t pull four guys from there, replace them with four guys from (Single-A) ball. We’ve got to add bodies.”
Patrick Kivlehan was not in the lineup Sunday, but he is healthy and participated in batting practice. Kivlehan was taken out of the game Saturday after a hamstring cramp. Listach said Kivlehan was “more scared than he was hurt, because he’s never had it before.” … It appears Grube, who has been battling blisters since Friday, will most likely miss his start on Tuesday. A future starting date for Grube has not been announced.
The Rainiers head out on a seven-game road trip to finish out the first half of the Pacific Coast League season. Tacoma’s first stop is Reno, where Rainiers right-hander Zach Lee (0-1, 9.00 ERA) gets the start at 6:35 p.m. Monday against Aces right-hander Braden Shipley (6-4, 3.81). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.