Shortstop Nick Franklin shook off a dreadful performance the night before by belting the winning home run Friday night in the Tacoma Rainiers’ 4-3 victory over the Oklahoma City RedHawks in 11 innings.
“I was just looking for something in the zone to do some damage on,” Franklin said of the first pitch he saw from reliever Jose Valdez. “Just trying to get on base was my main objective.”
He got the opportunity because Alex Liddi hit a tying home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
Franklin’s homer was his fourth for the Rainiers, and it came on a textbook swing. It was vastly different from the night before when he struggled.
At the end of Thursday’s 0-for-4 performance with three strikeouts, Franklin stood on the field in empty Cheney Stadium filled with frustration and searching for answers.
Still in full uniform, he wanted to be out of the clubhouse and on his own to relax and clear his mind.
Whatever thoughts entered the talented Mariners shortstop prospect’s mind in those 20 minutes seemed to work 24 hours later.
His walk-off home run cleared the wall in right field.
Franklin wasn’t looking for a homer, but as he said, “mistakes happen.” And Valdez left a mistake pitch up in the zone.
Franklin had missed a couple games with a mild knee injury, so there was a reason for his rust.
Three-strikeout games don’t sit well in a competitor such as Franklin. It’s why he found himself alone on the field postgame.
“It was just to get the cobwebs out and stop thinking about it,” Franklin said. “It was just controlling my emotion after the game and getting myself calm.”
Considered one of the top position prospects in the Seattle farm system, Franklin has shown moments of brilliance since being promoted to the Rainiers in June.
For every night like Friday, there’s been a night like Thursday for the 21-year- old.
“You are going to see it with a young hitter,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. “The kid can hit. He’s shown us that. He came up in a big situation and did what he can do.”
Franklin’s walk-off heroics overshadowed Hector Noesi’s best start since being sent down to Tacoma.
The right-hander pitched seven innings giving up two runs on five hits, while striking out five and walking one.
Noesi had a shaky first inning give up a leadoff double to Brandon Barnes and a two-run homer to Jimmy Paredes in the first five pitches.
“That’s a tough first five pitches,” Brown said. “After that, he did a really nice job. It was good to see.”
But after the first inning trouble, he allowed just three more hits over the next six innings. He retired the last 14 batters he faced.
“He kept the ball down and made pitches when he needed to,” Brown said. “When he was ahead in the count, he made some good pitches which have been an issue. That’s the best he’s thrown the ball since he’s been here.”
After Noesi gave up the two runs in the first, the Rainiers answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer from Luis Jimenez off starter Brian Bass.
The 2-2 tie was broken in the top of the eighth when reliever Charlie Furbush gave up an RBI double to Paredes, driving home Barnes, who had singled.
Bobby LaFromboise (4-1) picked up the win in relief, pitching three shutout innings and allowing just two hits while striking out one and walking one.
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (3-2, 4.09 ERA) will start for the Rainiers tonight at 7:05. Ramirez is on a rehab assignment recovering from a sore elbow. Oklahoma City will start left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (4-3, 6.02 ERA). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM and firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners 253-597-8483 @RyanDivish