COLORADO SPRINGS — Not a bad day, Mike Zunino.
The Tacoma catcher homered off an old college rival, and homered again with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Rainiers a 6-5 win over division rival Colorado Springs on Friday night.
The victory gave Tacoma a series win, three games to one. The Rainiers lead the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific-North division by a game and a half over the second-place Sky Sox.
Tacoma starter Blake Beavan carried a three-start winning streak into the game, but he was touched for five runs in 5† innings, leaving the game with a 5-2 deficit.
Colorado Springs ace Drew Pomeranz entered the game leading the league in both strikeouts and wins. He held Tacoma at bay for the most part, allowing two runs through the first five innings.
With 96 pitches entering the sixth, the Sky Sox left Pomeranz in the start the inning. Zunino greeted him with a line-drive homer to left field.
The two faced each other in college – Pomeranz pitched for Ole Miss, while Zunino played for Florida.
“I faced him in college my freshman year and he tore me up pretty good,” said Zunino. “Coming back and facing him now, I just wanted to have some good at-bats. He left a curveball up, and I just got the barrel on it.”
Brad Miller did the same thing on the very next pitch, launching a homer to center to make it 5-4.
Tacoma had stellar relief from Brian Moran, who worked 2ª scoreless innings with five strikeouts.
Nate Tenbrink tripled with two outs in the seventh, and scored the tying run on Miller’s infield single.
It was still 5-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth, when Zunino came to the plate against veteran reliever Logan Kensing.
Zunino launched an 0-1 pitch for a towering homer to left-center, his second of the game and 11th of the season.
“He came at me with a fastball and I didn’t try to do too much with it,” said Zunino. “I squared it up pretty good, and was able to elevate it.”
Logan Bawcom made things stressful in the bottom of the ninth, walking the leadoff man and the third batter to put two on with one out. Bawcom managed to get Josh Rutledge and Charlie Blackmon to ground out, claiming his ninth save of the season.
“That was a big win over a division rival with the second-best record in the league,” said Tacoma manager John Stearns, whose team has the best record (34-22) in the circuit. “Winning three out of four at their place is huge.”
First baseman Jesus Montero has not played in the last two games due to knee trouble.
The Rainiers return home to host the Sacramento River Cats in a 7:05 game Saturday night. Tacoma starts James Paxton (2-4, 5.01 ERA) against Sacramento’s Andrew Werner (4-7, 5.82).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.