Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tacoma Rainiers 2, El Paso Chihuahuas 0

Justin Germano pitched a complete-game, seven-hit shutout and Patrick Kivlehan hit a two-run homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth as the Tacoma Rainiers defeated El Paso 2-0 June 28 at Cheney Stadium. The game was certified as a dandy by my Sweetie, the official scorer, as it featured fewer than five runs scored total, a victory margin of less than three, and no errors.

Justin Germano
Germano was masterful, if not overpowering, in going the distance on a warm but cloudy summer afternoon. He struck out five and did not walk a soul. The one weakness in his game was the leadoff double, which he surrendered in three different innings, but only once were the Chihuahuas able to advance the runner beyond the keystone sack, and that was in the sixth inning when they squandered what turned out to be their best chance to score against Germano.

El Paso second sacker Rocky Gale led off the top of the sixth with a two-bagger against Germano and moved to third on Abraham Almonte's fly ball to center field. That brought up Chihuahua shortstop Mike McCoy, who lofted a fly ball to Kivlehan in medium-deep left field. Gale tagged and headed for the plate; Kivlehan's throw was high, and Tacoma backstop John Hicks had to go up the ladder a bit to get it. Gale, however, inexplicably decided not to slide, and Hicks tagged him for the final out of the frame as he attempted to cross the dish standing. The score remained tied at 0-0.

Jason Lane, a former big-league outfielder now trying to stick as a pitcher at age 38, was the hard-luck starter for El Paso. The southpaw Lane went 7 2/3 innings and allowed no runs on seven hits, struck out two and walked just one. Tacoma's only real threat in the first seven innings came in the fifth, when Kivlehan and Zach Shank, a second baseman recently called up from Double-A Jackson after an injury to Leury Bonilla, stroked back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with two out. Rainier shortstop Chris Taylor grounded to short to end the inning.

Tacoma chased Lane in the bottom of the eighth. Taylor singled with one out and, after a flyout by Shawn "Oh, Really? No" O'Malley, Rainier first baseman Jesus Montero grounded a single through the hole at short. That brought up Justin Ruggiano, Tacoma designated hitter who, in an apparent message to Mariner management about his recent demotion from the big club, had hit three home runs and driven home seven the night before. El Paso manager Jamie Quirk came out with the hook and brought in righty Jerry Sullivan to face Ruggiano. The strategy worked for the moment, as Ruggiano whiffed.

The Chihuahuas put Germano into a little hot water in the ninth. Gale led off with an infield single, as Taylor and O'Malley nearly collided as they tried to field his chopper; Taylor grabbed it, but his throw to first was late. Gale moved to second on a groundout by Almonte, who wasn't able to get down a good bunt. McCoy then dunked one into shallow center for a base hit that put runners on the corners with one out.

Patrick Kivlehan receives congrats from
Tacoma manager Pat Listach as he
rounds third base following his game-
winning home run in the ninth inning
against El Paso Sunday. Photo: Greg
That brought Tacoma manager Pat Listach to the mound, causing Weisenheimer and my Sweetie, the official scorer to lament, as we often do, about the lack of complete games in baseball these days. But it appeared that the main reason Listach went to the hill was to give home plate umpire Jeff Morrow an earful about a non-strike call during McCoy's at-bat, which both Germano and Hicks had also done with considerable emphasis moments before.

Listach left Germano in there. The next batter, El Paso center fielder Jake Goebbert, dunked a Texas-Leaguer toward left on which Taylor made a fine, over-the-shoulder catch for the second out. Left fielder Alex Dickerson then flied out to left to end the frame.

In the bottom of the ninth against Sullivan Rainier center fielder Leon Landry singled with one out. Hicks then hit into a 5-4 force, and Kivlehan drilled one over the fence in right for the game-winning homer, his 14th round tripper of the season.

Box score.

Germano loves Weisenheimer and Sweetie

This was the second game we have seen Germano pitch this season, and he's been outstanding in both. Back on May 17 he pitched six shutout innings in a 4-0 win over Las Vegas. Overall this season he is 7-3 and Sunday's shutout lowered his ERA to 2.83. Germano has given up no runs or walks in 15 innings when we're present this year. We suggest that the Rainiers pay our way to all Germano starts, home and away.

Dog day afternoon

The game was played on dog day, apparently known as K-9 innings, which seems a ridiculous idea even if the opponents are named the Chihuahuas. The pup sitting in our row, just behind the statue of Ben Cheney in section K, was reasonably well behaved, only growling two or three times at other passing canine spectators whose looks he, for whatever reason, did not like. Remind us to be absent the next time Fresno is in town, in case it's Grizzly Bear night. I wonder if, the next time the Albuquerque Isotopes visit Tacoma, the first five thousand fans through the gates will receive a pound of pure plutonium.

Work, work, work

Goebbert, the El Paso center fielder, made eight putouts, including five in a row in the sixth and seventh innings.

Orel exam

We noticed the name Jordan Hershiser on the El Paso roster and, sure enough, his pop is former Dodger hurler Orel Hershiser. Jordan didn't play Sunday, but on Saturday night, in his second career appearance in a game above A-ball, he surrendered the third of Ruggiano's home runs.

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