ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Taijuan Walker was sharp, the Rainiers clicked on offense and Tacoma held on for a 7-6 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes on Saturday night.
The Rainiers even gained a game on first-place Salt Lake, cutting their deficit to five games behind the division leaders with 23 to play.
Walker bounced back from three consecutive rough outings to deliver a high-quality start in a difficult ballpark for pitchers.
Working at high elevation and in swirling winds, Walker survived a trio of walks in the second inning and a wall-scraping homer in the third, taking a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
After a leadoff single by Alex Castellanos, Albuquerque cleanup hitter Scott Van Slyke blasted a two-run homer into the wind in left-center field, tying the score at 3.
Walker finished the inning, leaving the game after six innings and 98 pitches. He allowed five hits, three runs, all earned, four walks and struck out five.
“He really battled with men on base, and he ended up getting a quality start,” said Tacoma manager John Stearns.
Walker (3-2) earned the win when the Rainiers regained the lead in the top of the seventh. Carlos Peguero singled home Nate Tenbrink and Carlos Triunfel added an RBI single two batters later to make it 5-3.
Tenbrink was 4-for-5 in the game, with a two-run double in the second inning. Peguero went 3-for-5, with two doubles and two RBI. Triunfel also had three hits, driving in a pair of runs.
“Triunfel really had a nice game,” Stearns said. “He made a couple of nice plays in the field, and he had the last RBI, which was the game winner.”
Tom Wilhelmsen followed Walker and allowed one run in two innings. The run scored in the eighth, when Elian Herrera walked and then toured the bases on three wild pitches.
Tacoma added two runs in the top of the ninth — and they were needed, because Jonathan Arias came in to protect the three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and ran into big trouble.
A walk, a hit batter, and a pair of run-scoring singles made it 7-6, before Arias rebounded to strike out Herrera and Castellanos to earn his second save.
The three-game series in Albuquerque concludes at 12:35 p.m. (PDT) Sunday with the Rainiers sending up Blake Beavan (4-4, 5.16 ERA) against the Isotopes’ Red Patterson (6-4, 3.43). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.Mike Curto is the broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.