ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Rainiers “grand slam guy” was scratched from the lineup right before first pitch, and it ended up potentially making a big difference in Tacoma’s 6-1 loss at Albuquerque on Friday night.
Stefen Romero – who became the first player in Tacoma history to hit three grand slams in a season when he hit one Thursday night – was scratched from the starting lineup due to back spasms.
As fate would have it, Romero’s No. 3 spot in the lineup came around in the top of the third inning –with the bases loaded, one out, and Tacoma trailing 2-1.
Romero’s replacement Leury Bonilla grounded into an inning-ending double play – marking just one of a handful of potential Tacoma rallies that sputtered out.
Bonilla was playing in his first game since July 12, due to a knee injury. He was activated from the disabled list prior to the game, but wasn’t supposed to play unless there was an emergency.
“Romero wasn’t on the field five minutes before the game, he was on the training table and couldn’t play,” said manager John Stearns. “We missed his bat in the lineup and his defense in left.”
Tacoma scored its only run in the second inning, when Rich Poythress hit a rope to left field for his 12th home run of the season. Poythress’s homer came against Albuquerque starter Jonathan Sanchez, who lasted six innings and allowed just the one run to earn the win.
In addition to the bases loaded opportunity in the third inning, Tacoma wasted a leadoff double in the fourth, had a runner thrown out at home plate in the fifth, and loaded the bases in the ninth without scoring.
All told, the Rainiers left 12 runners on base – with six stranded in scoring position. The team fell six games behind first place Salt Lake.
“The main problem over the last three weeks has been our lack of offense, and tonight was a typical game,” said Stearns. “We’ve been out here early every day working on it.”
Hector Noesi (3-2) started and took the loss for Tacoma. He went five innings, giving up five runs on seven hits. He tied his season high with seven strikeouts.
“I thought Noesi pitched a lot better than his numbers,” said Stearns. “With a little help from our defense he could’ve had a lot better outing.”
Former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless seventh inning for Albuquerque. Coming back from elbow surgery, the hairy right-hander retired the side on just seven pitches.
Bonilla was activated from the disabled list, while Scott Savastano is day-to-day with tightness in his side. … Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez reports for his fourth 20-day rehabilitation assignment of the season Saturday, he is expected to serve as the DH.
Tacoma sends Tom Wilhelmsen (0-1, 13.50) to the mound on Saturday night, with Taijuan Walker (2-2, 3.60) expected to follow him from the bullpen. Albuquerque will start Matt Magill (4-0, 2.34). First pitch is set for 6:05 (PDT).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.