Taijuan Walker had his toughest night in Triple A, but he remains unbeaten at that level thanks to the offensive heroics of Tacoma Rainiers first baseman Rich Poythress.
Poythress hit a home run in the third inning, tied the game with a two-out double in the eighth, then gave the Rainiers a 6-5 win over the Tucson Padres on Thursday night with a walk-off home run to left field in the 10th.
“Rich Poythress is just killing the ball,” manager John Stearns said. “I can’t say enough good things about him. He plays real good defense at first base, he’s really swinging the bat — that’s 11 home runs.
“Just a great effort by him and a great effort by our team.”
Walker came into the game having given up two runs over his first four starts since his promotion from Double-A Jackson on June 22. He entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Seattle organization.
However, Walker allowed five earned runs over five innings Thursday and his earned run average jumped from an other-worldly 0.86 to a more mortal 2.42.
“He struggled a little bit,” Stearns said. “He’s 20 years old. He’s going to meet those struggles at this level, but he’s going to work through those and come out better on the other side. …
“Our expectations are high, but let’s give this guy a chance to develop a little bit. He’s 20 years old, he’s in Triple A — he’s the youngest guy in this league. I would say you’ve got to have an outing like tonight like he had to rebound and get better.”
Walker came out blazing over the first two innings, retiring all six batters — four by strikeouts.
However, Tucson designated hitter Mike Wilson opened the third with a no-question-about-it home run to left.
Walker breezed through the rest of the inning, adding two more strikeouts. But the Padres batted around in the fourth, adding four runs.
That nudged Tucson (55-51) ahead by one run. The Rainiers’ offense had scored lone runs in the first and second innings before adding a pair in the third on a Poythress homer that skimmed over the left-field wall.
Tucson held that 5-4 lead until the eighth, when Poythress drew the Rainiers (59-47) even with a two-out, bloop double down the left-field line.
His next trip to the plate came with one out in the 10th, and he launched a Brad Brach fastball over the left-field wall.
“I’ve had a lot of at-bats against Brach in the Cal League, spring training in Arizona, fall stuff — everything,” Poythress said. “He’s actually a pretty good friend of mine. I figured he’d challenge me. He was challenging everybody out there, too.”
‘RAVE GREEN’ RAINIERS
The game was played before a Cheney Stadium crowd of 6,384, which a Rainiers spokesman said represented “a considerable bump” over the typical Thursday home crowd. The bump was attributed to Seattle Sounders FC Night.
The Rainiers played in “rave green” jerseys, honoring the soccer club.
“They were bright,” Poythress said.
The jerseys were auctioned, raising $7,710 for Sounders FC Community Partners. The top bid was $500 for the jersey worn by Lamar Neagle, the Tacoma-born Sounders forward who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Rainiers begin a four-game trip at Reno with a 7:05 p.m. game Friday. Tacoma right-hander Blake Beavan (4-3, 5.10 ERA) will face Reno right-hander Brandon McCarthy (0-0, 12.46). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org @donruiztnt