TACOMA-Travis Blackley's struggles continued as the Rainiers fell short in Friday night's matchup versus Portland by a final score of 6-3. The loss dropped the Rainiers into second place as the Rainiers' I-5 nemesis now holds a half game lead in the Northern Division.
Blackley began strong, tossing three scoreless innings to start the game, and it looked like he may have been finding a groove as the game went to the top of the fourth in a scoreless tie.
The Aussie left-hander walked Miguel Ojeda and Jon Knott with one out in the fourth and allowed a single to Robert Fick to load the bases. J.J. Furmaniak then singled home Ojeda to give the Beavers a 1-0 lead.
After Blackley struck out Jake Gautreau for the second out, Ben Risinger drew a walk, forcing in run No. 2. Former Mariner prospect Alex Fernandez followed with an infield RBI single to first when A.J. Zapp made a diving stop but the throw to Blackley covering first base was not in time to get Fernandez.
Tacoma got a run in the fourth when A.J. Zapp doubled in Jeremy Reed who walked and stole second with one out. The fire was put out by Portland starter Mike Bumstead who got Greg Dobbs to pop out and Jim Horner to ground into a fielder's choice.
Bumstead would allow just one run on four hits over his five innings before handing the ball to the Beavers bullpen in the sixth.
Blackley gave up a run in the fifth and another in the sixth before manager Dan Rohn went to the pen to get Jared Hoerman. With the score 5-1, and men on first and second, Hoerman struck out Miguel Ojeda to end the inning.
Left-hander Alan Webb took over for Bumstead in the sixth and the Rainiers immediately put runners at first and third with one out but Webb played damage control as Dobbs bounced out to first and Horner flied to right. Dobbs' grounder scored Reed, who walked, but the rally was over.
The two teams would exchange runs in the seventh making it 6-3 and and other than two walks for Portland in the eighth, both teams would go down without much noise over the final two innings.
Blackley never found his groove and continues his struggles since returning to Tacoma from his big league stint last month. The 21-year-old falls to 8-6 on the year.
"He's not a different pitcher he just needs to get his confidence back with his stuff," said Rohn. "Bottom line, trust his stuff and throw strikes."
Blackley didn't get any help from his offense either as the Rainiers bats were fairly quiet and for the third straight game, failed to score more than three runs.
"They pitched well against us, bottom line," said Rohn. "They're not leading the league in pitching for any reason other than they are good. We've got to go out and when we get chances to score we've got to score."
Without half of the lineup that the Rainiers started the year with, Tacoma has been able to score when they have needed it most but the recent slump comes at the worst time and the team knows it.
"Yeah, we're not swinging the bats well at all right now," said infielder Mickey Lopez. "If you play a team consecutively as many times as we are, eventually they are going to find our tendencies and go to them and we haven't made the adjustments."
Tacoma has two more games versus Portland and it's crucial that the offense supports the patchwork pitching staff over the weekend.
"We definitely need to break out the sticks tomorrow and for the next two games," said Lopez. "Those might be the deciding games that we need to win."
The team's recent struggles at the plate are not attributed to feeling the pressure of the playoff race, according to Lopez.
"We are not tight at all. We just need a few big innings offensively."
Tacoma will send right-hander Cha Seung Baek (5-4, 4.21) up against Portland's own righty Tim Stauffer (6-2, 3.51). Game time has been changed to 6:05 p.m. and it's Rainiers T-shirt night at Cheney Stadium.
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