Winning with Strong Pitching
The Tacoma Rainiers stole a few pages from the Missions' formula for success Wednesday night and claimed a surprising 4-2 victory in 10 innings.
In the opener of a three-game, Pacific Coast League series, the Rainiers relied on dynamic pitching, particularly out of the bullpen, and supplied just enough timely offense to beat the American Southern Division leaders on their home field in front of 3,272 fans at Wolff Stadium.
Tacoma first baseman Kristopher Negron led the attack with a 2-for-3 performance, including a solo homer and a 10th-inning RBI single.
He said it felt good to beat a team that had the PCL's best record at home (20-9).
"They've got some good pitchers and some really good hitters," he said. "Our pitchers made some good pitches tonight, and we strung together some hits at the right time, so we ended up being on the right end of it.
"Everybody's been feeling good. The off day (Tuesday) felt good, and we came back out and won today."
Tacoma's victory spoiled a solid effort from Missions starter Zack Brown, who has been struggling to find consistency all season.
Against the Rainiers, the former Kentucky star had a 2-0 lead and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, when Negron greeted him with a solo homer over the right field wall.
In the sixth, Brown seemed to lose command in a crucial situation. With two on, two out and two strikes on Negron, he fired a pitch inside and hit the batter to load the bases.
Moments later, pitching to Chris Mariscal, he sailed a wild pitch over catcher Jacob Nottingham, allowing the tying run to score.
To his credit, he didn't come completely unraveled, striking out Mariscal with two men on base to end the threat.
Brown, in the end, finished with six innings, giving up only two runs and three hits. He walked three and struck out seven.
"I thought he pitched very well," Missions manager Rick Sweet said. "That's probably one of his better games all year. I thought he was very solid. He kept the ball around the strike zone."
Tacoma pitching ended up carrying the day, with starter Mike Wright and relievers Ryan Garton, Matt Festa and Parker Markel combining on a five-hit gem.
Garton, Festa and Markel didn't give up a hit and combined for one walk and seven strikeouts.
In the 10th, the Rainiers broke through against Missions' bullpen ace Jay Jackson with RBI singles by Ian Miller and Negron.
Rainiers' manager Daren Brown, who managed the Missions in 2006, said after the game that he expected a tough road trip in bringing his Pacific Northern Division squad to Texas to play the Missions and the Round Rock Express.
"Both, obviously, have been playing well all year," Brown said. "You know, we got off to a little bit of a rough first inning there, and (were) able to get out of it giving up a couple of runs. It could have been worse.
'From there, obviously our pitching did a nice job. Wright settled down and got us to the sixth. Garton, Festa and Markel, obviously, when you're throwing up zeros, they're doing a good job."
American Southern Division
San Antonio 40-26, Round Rock 39-26, New Orleans 35-31, Oklahoma City 25-39.
Pacific Northern Division
Sacramento 34-31, Fresno 33-32, Tacoma 32-24, Reno 28-37.
RHP Burch Smith (3-3, 3.15) for San Antonio vs. LHP Justus Sheffield (2-5, 5.74)
Ray, Taylor still 'weeks away'
Missions manager Rick Sweet said injured outfielders Corey Ray and Tyrone Taylor are making progress but are "weeks away" from re-joining the ball club.
While Sweet didn't have a specific timetable, he did say he expected both would return this summer. Ray (finger) went on the injured list May 23 and Taylor (wrist) on May 26.
"They're improving but they're still weeks away," Sweet said. "They have not started doing baseball activities yet."
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