The Las Vegas 51s pulled within one run in the eighth inning, but the rally fizzled as the Tacoma Rainiers won 5-3 Sunday to take two of the three games in the series at Cheney Stadium.
The loss ended an 11-game road trip in which the 51s (25-39) managed only four victories.
Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (1-0), who was making his second rehab start for Tacoma (35-27), pitched a gem for the Rainiers. Hernandez allowed only one hit, one walk and one earned run in five innings, while retiring 14 straight batters — five of those on strikeouts.
Las Vegas 51s manager Pedro Lopez was not surprised by what he saw of the pitcher known as King Felix.
“He did a good job,” said Lopez. “He kept pitches away from us. He kept us off balance, and he was able to work ahead (in the pitch count). There’s a reason why he’s an ace.”
The lone run Hernandez surrendered came in the fifth inning when designated hitter Jace Boyd connected for an RBI-double that brought home Desmond Jennings and pulled the 51s within 2-1.
Later in the fifth, Tacoma designated hitter D.J. Peterson hit a two-run home run off starter Rafael Montero (0-2) to extend the Rainers’ lead to 4-1.
Montero, who had a strong road trip despite little run support, seemed vulnerable Sunday. He worked six innings and gave up four earned runs and four walks on six hits while striking out five.
Lopez thought Montero battled, but perhaps he was “too fine” with his pitches.
“Today he was a little too careful,” Lopez said. “He worked from behind a couple of times, and made some pitches up on his own.”
Boyd struck again in the eighth inning, hitting a two-run home run off of reliever Ryne Harper which brought the 51s within 4-3. Boyd finished 2-for-3 and drove in all three Las Vegas runs.
“At that point we only had one or two hits,” Lopez said “Even before the home run I was telling the guys in the dugout…we’re saving the best for last.”
But the rally ended there. Rainiers’ right fielder Andrew Aplin hit only his second home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs. Aplin finished 1-for-3.
“We played better than we were playing in the past,” said Lopez. “Hopefully we can have a good home stand and then hit the road again.”
The 51s return to Cashman Field on Tuesday to open a four-game series against the Sacramento River Cats.
Contact Jonathan Saxon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @J_Saxon91