It wasn’t necessarily warm or sunny, but the lack of falling rain felt like a proper welcome home for the Tacoma Rainiers following a road trip to Fresno and Sacramento. After a cold and wet season-opening home stand that felt like a test of endurance for fans and players alike, the overcast skies above Cheney Stadium were a friendly sight on Tuesday, April 17, as the Rainiers opened a four-game series with the Albuquerque Isotopes.
What began as a bit of a pitcher’s duel ended up being a blowout for the Rainiers, following a six-run outburst in the eighth inning. The 8-2 victory also lifted Tacoma back to .500 on the season at 6-6.
Erasmo Ramirez took the mound for the Rainiers to start the game and put in a solid 5.2 innings of rehabilitation work. Ramirez gave up just one earned run, while surrendering just one walk and scattering four Isotope hits. The Major League Baseball veteran also struck out six batters before giving way to Ryan Cook, Casey Lawrence and Erik Goeddel, who gave up just four hits, while keeping Albuquerque scoreless.
The teams were tied at 2-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning when lightning struck for the Rainiers. Designated hitter Kirk Nieuwehnuis drew a base-loaded walk to bring in left fielder Ian Miller, putting Tacoma on top 3-2. Catcher Chris Hermann then slapped a single into center field to bring right fielder Cameron Perkins across the plate for a fourth run. First baseman Matt Hague then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of third baseman Danny Muno. Center fielder John Andreoli continued the onslaught with a double to left field, scoring Nieuwenhuis and Hermann to put the score at 7-2 Tacoma.
Following an Albuquerque pitching change, second baseman Gordon Beckham doubled to center field, scoring Andreoli to make it 8-2 Tacoma.
While the eighth inning was magic for most of the Tacoma lineup, it proved to be a little rough on Taylor Motter, fresh from a send-down from the Seattle Mariners. Motter recorded the first Tacoma out as the second batter of the inning with a strikeout. After the torrent of Tacoma runs had ended, Motter came to the plate again, only to end the inning with his second strikeout in the bottom of the eighth.
The Tacoma road trip saw some big scores from both the Rainiers, as well as their opponents. Tacoma kicked-off the fireworks in Fresno by destroying the first-place Fresno Grizzlies by a score of 13-0 on Tuesday, April 10. It was an 11-run ninth inning that spelled doom for the Grizzlies. Tacoma’s Christian Bergmann was dominant from the mound, striking out eight Grizzlies, while giving up just four hits and walking none over seven innings of work. Pitchers Shawn Armstrong and David McKay blanked Fresno over the final two innings to secure the rout.
Fresno was able to exact a little revenge the following night, erasing a 9-3 deficit to take a 13-9 victory over the Rainiers. The Grizzlies were able to push across five runs in the sixth inning, as well as another five in the seventh inning to seal the comeback victory. It was a tough loss for Tacoma, considering the fact that they knocked around Fresno pitchers for 13 hits. Three errors also didn’t help the Rainiers’ chances for a victory.
Fresno held off a late Tacoma rally in the following game to win the series with a 5-3 victory. The Rainiers put across three runs in the ninth inning, but that was going to be it for Tacoma, as the Fresno pitching closed the door on their comeback.
After a short trip to Sacramento, Tacoma got back in the win column with a tight 3-2 victory over the River Cats on Friday, April 13. The two teams were able to muster just 11 hits combined, with Rob Whalen putting in six strong innings on the hill, giving up just six hits and no earned runs.
Sacramento’s bats caught fire the next night, as the River Cats slapped around 13 hits on their way to a 12-7 victory. The Rainiers put four runs on the board in the eighth inning to put themselves within striking distance of Sacramento, but that was as far as they were going to get.
Tacoma rebounded in a big way on Sunday, April 15, as the Rainiers dropped a 15-5 win on the River Cats. A five-run third inning, as well as a seven-run fourth inning were too much for Sacramento to overcome, despite knocking around 12 hits of their own. Three River Cats errors also didn’t help their cause. Bergman got his second win of the season pitching five strong innings, while giving up just one earned run. Bergman did get a little wild, issuing four walks.
The fourth game of the Sacramento series was rained out and the Rainiers headed back to the friendly confines of Cheney Stadium
Tacoma will wrap up its series with Albuquerque on Friday, April 20. The game will be capped by a fireworks show for the fans. The following day, Tacoma will welcome Sacramento back to Cheney Stadium for a quick three-game series. Saturday, April 21 is also day one of “Throwback Weekend” for Tacoma fans. The first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a free Tacoma Giants snapback ball cap. The following day, the first 1,000 fans will receive a free Tacoma Twins snapback ball cap.
After getting a look at both throwback ball cap designs, fans are going to want to get to the ball park nice and early to get a crack at these beauties.
Tacoma will hit the road on Wednesday, April 25, to begin a five-game series with Fresno. With the Grizzlies leading Tacoma by 3.5 games in the standings, the Rainiers have a chance to not only close that gap, but take over the lead in the Pacific Coast League’s Northern Pacific Division by the time they return home for a series-opener with Albuquerque on Monday, April 30.