The Tacoma Rainiers bullpen bounced back in a big way, shutting down the Salt Lake Bees in the final three innings of a 7-5 win Friday night.
One day after giving up a walk-off grand slam in the series-opener, Bobby LaFromboise got a key double play grounder to escape a seventh inning jam. That set the stage for closer Logan Bawcom, who delivered to scoreless innings to secure his 15th save of the year.
“The story of the game was Bawcom,” said Tacoma manager John Stearns. “We were letting it leak away, and he came in and got a two-inning save.”
Tacoma built an early 7-0 lead.
Nate Tenbrink doubled in a run in the second inning, and Stefen Romero hit a two-run single one pitch before Carlos Peguero launched a two-run homer in the third inning to make it 5-0.
Second baseman Ty Kelly homered for the second consecutive game, a towering, deep two-run blast to right-center in the fourth inning to give Tacoma a seven-run lead.
But Rainiers starter Erasmo Ramirez battled an unfamiliar foe: control problems. A master of control since the Mariners signed him as a teenager from Nicaragua, Ramirez couldn’t find the strike zone while walking a career-high six baters.
Couple the six walks with seven hits allowed, and Ramirez (3-3) was constantly in trouble during his 5 1/3 innings. He was able to limit the damage, allowing just three runs and earning the win.
LaFromboise struggled in relief of Ramirez, allowing a two-run homer and a run-scoring single before ending that frame with a 7-5 lead.
After a one-out double by Trent Oeltjen and a walk to John Hester, it appeared that LaFromboise was on the ropes in the seventh. Salt Lake sent pinch-hitter Roberto Lopez to the plate, and LaFromboise got him to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
“Bobby was struggling, he had the ball up in the zone for the last couple of nights,” said Stearns. “We were in the lead but it didn’t feel like it. When Bobby got that double play, it was the turning point in the game.”
Tacoma (52-37) increased its lead in the Pacific-North to four games over second place Salt Lake.
The Rainiers entered play with the highest team batting average in road games of any team in the Pacific Coast League. Tacoma’s .297 road average ranks far ahead of the second-best average in away games: Sacramento’s .281.
The series continues with a 6:05 p.m. (PDT) game Saturday. Tacoma starts Brandon Maurer (2-2, 4.03) against Salt Lake left-hander Dustin Richardson (1-0, 3.48). The broadcast airs on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers