A lot happened in the Tacoma Rainiers’ 10-9 win over the Sacramento River Cats on Sunday – including a pitcher coming back and another on his way up.
Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen pitched two perfect innings in his first start since June 27 after coming off the disabled list. He was followed on the mound by James Paxton, who went two innings before leaving to the news that he was heading up to Seattle.
“Hultzen – who we knew was going to pitch two innings – really looked good out there. He was throwing strikes, he was sharp,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “Then Paxton came in. We knew he was only going to throw two (innings) – we hadn’t told him that he was going to the big leagues. He threw two innings, did a nice job, we took him out. … It was fun (to give him the news). Hopefully he can go up there and do what he’s done here in the second half, which has been outstanding. He earned his way to that call-up.”
Hultzen, who was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, was happy to return after enduring back-to-back stints on the disabled list. He had ranked third in the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts and fourth in opponent batting average before going out with a left rotator cuff strain.
Back on the mound at Cheney Stadium on a warm and sunny afternoon, he picked up where he left off, facing and retiring six batters – three by strikeout.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It had been a long time since I had been out there. I had a little bit of the nerves going on, but I was just really happy to be out there again. … You always feel a little bad just watching so many games and being on the bench, so it felt good to go out there and contribute.”
Soon enough, the game turned into a back-and-forth power display. The Rainiers (76-67) matched their season high with five home runs. Sacramento (78-65) added four of its own. The nine total home runs were the most in a Rainiers game this season.
Tacoma trailed 9-5 before zooming past the River Cats with a five-run eighth.
Leading the offense was leadoff hitter Xavier Avery, who went 5-for-5 with a home run, three runs batted in and three runs scored in his second game since joining the Mariners organization in the trade that sent outfielder Michael Morse to Baltimore.
Batting behind him, Ty Kelly added three hits, including a home run. Behind him, Stefen Romero contributed two home runs and five RBI.
“Avery is unbelievable ... he’s been a big boost to us,” Stearns said. “… And Kelly continues to impress: up to .320, his on-base percentage is .450. It’s ridiculous. He’s been playing well all year.”
Nick Hill (1-0) got his first Triple-A win, and Josh Kinney got his first save of the season with a hitless ninth inning.
The Rainiers’ season comes to an end with a 1:35 p.m. game Monday against Sacramento. The probable pitching matchup is Tacoma right-hander Andrew Carraway (6-7, 4.37 ERA) against right-hander Arnold Leon (4-3, 4.21).Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org