El Paso began the second inning at Cheney Stadium with a home run.
But that was simply a prelude: A grand slam was added before the inning concluded.
“When one goes over the fence when there’s three guys on,” said Rainiers manager Roy Howell, “that hurries things up, big time.”
So it went Monday night for the Tacoma Rainiers, as the visiting Chihuahuas — first-year Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres — scored six runs off Tacoma starter Chance Ruffin in the second inning and hit four home runs total in a 9-5 Pacific Coast League victory before an announced crowd of 1,813.
It has been a rocky start to the season for the Rainiers, who have sustained two rainouts and are now 1-3.
And it was a rough first start of the season for Ruffin, who threw 74 pitches in five innings and allowed eight of El Paso’s runs and three of its homers.
Kyle Blanks hit the first, a screamer over the left-field fence. After Ruffin hit two batters, walked another two and watched a run score on a sacrifice fly, El Paso second baseman Brooks Conrad poked a grand slam over the fence in right-center field to blow this one open early.
The Chihuahuas weren’t finished. An RBI single by former Rainier and Mariner Adam Moore extended the lead in the third inning, then solo homers by Jeff Francouer and Moore — the latter off Tacoma reliever Brandon Maurer — made it 9-0.
Howell said Ruffin might have been overthrowing a bit, perhaps due to nerves that can accompany a pitcher’s first start of the season.
Ruffin (0-1) said the homers were a byproduct of “me flying open with my left side and kind of getting under the ball. And once you stop throwing downhill, it flattens out for the hitters, and they took advantage of it.
“I think I learned a lot from it, and I’m looking forward to my next outing.”
There were some offensive highlights for the Rainiers despite their modest hit total of six, though the fireworks came after El Paso’s lead was insurmountable.
Jesus Sucre, the Rainiers’ catcher, began the bottom of the sixth inning with his first career Triple-A homer — and his first at any level since April 25, 2012, when he was playing for Double-A Jackson.
Shortstop Nick Franklin continued his hot early hitting, clubbing a two-run homer over the right-center field fence later in the inning, one of only four hits allowed by El Paso starter Branch Kloess (1-0).
Franklin was 2-for-3 and is hitting .533 (8-for-15) through Tacoma’s first four games.
“He’s grinding in the cage and he does his work. He’s thinking up there and trying to get good pitches to hit, and don’t miss your pitch that you’re looking for,” Howell said. “He’s doing a nice job.”
The Rainiers continue their four-game series against El Paso on Tuesday, 6:05 p.m. at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma’s James Gillheeney is scheduled to pitch against El Paso’s Juan Oramas.firstname.lastname@example.org @ChristianCaple