Rainiers lose steam heading into break

// Early hole against Aces leads to start of four-game sweep

Living with reality in Triple-A baseball means finding ways to win when the parent club calls up players to the big leagues. The Tacoma Rainiers are struggling with that reality right now, with the recent call up of shortstop Brad Miller – who had been swinging a hot bat with Tacoma and is off to a hot start with the Mariners – taking a little bit of the sting out of the lineup.

That offensive decline began to show itself in the opener of a four-game series against the last-place team in the division on July 11. Reno starter Mark Serrano masterfully scattered four hits over seven innings, and the Aces topped the Rainiers 6-1 to kick off the four-game sweep.

Brandon Maurer would last but six hitters into the game, and would depart after not retiring a hitter and giving up four runs on three hits and two walks. Tacoma’s only run in the game came on a solo homer by Carlos Triunfel in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“Maurer was a little dehydrated tonight. He tried to go and was a gamer, but he could not establish anything on the mound,” said Rainiers manager John Stearns. “Our bullpen did all they could to keep us in the game, but Serrano was just too tough tonight.”

Forrest Snow, Josh Kinney, and Jonathan Arias limited Reno to just two runs and seven hits over nine innings following Maurer’s departure, but Serrano – with a 1.80 earned run average going into the game – was just too much for the Rainiers.

The four-game losing streak has cut Tacoma’s one-time four-game lead in the division to a mere game over Salt Lake in the division, while Colorado Springs sits three games back.

Stearns, who has seen everything imaginable in both his major league career behind the plate for the Mets and in his early tenure as a PCL manager, is looking on the bright side. “We have undergone some major changes here since the start of the season, but those are the reasons for our existence as we have to overcome the losses of (Miller and Mike Zunino, among others) and get production from the players that are here. It’s just a part of life in Triple-A.”

One of the recent bright spots for Tacoma, the emergence of young right-hander Taijuan Walker – who was just promoted from Double-A Jackson – missed his recent turn in the rotation as he journeyed to New York City for the Futures Game. In his two starts with the Rainiers, the 6-foot-4 right hander has posted a 2-0 record with a 1.50 ERA, showing an assortment of pitches that should have Mariners fans salivating. “Fastball, curveball, changeup and slider, he’s been impressive early and should only get better,” were the words of Rainiers play-by-play man Mike Curto. With the offense being a big question mark entering the second half, Stearns remains optimistic. “We still have good talent here. Abraham Almonte, Stefan Romero, Carlos Peguero, and Carlos Triunfel have been very consistent to this point, and we as a coaching staff see no reason that they can’t continue this production into the second half of the season…(but) we’ll have to get added production from other players if we are to win this division.”

“We have undergone some major changes here since the start of the season, but those are the reasons for our existence as we have to overcome the losses of (Miller and Mike Zunino, among others) and get production from the players that are here. It’s just a part of life in Triple-A.”

John Stearns

Rainiers manager

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