ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nick Franklin is a switch hitter, but he sure hasn’t been doing much switch-hitting at the start of the Pacific Coast League season.
The Rainiers infielder had just four right-handed at-bats entering Sunday’s game in Albuquerque, due to a lack of left-handed pitchers among Tacoma’s early season opponents.
He was in that situation on Sunday afternoon facing left-hander Colt Hynes in the seventh inning of a tight game with the tying and go-ahead runners on base.
Franklin didn’t flinch. He drove an opposite-field two-run double off the base of the wall in right field, scoring two runs to give Tacoma a 4-3 lead. The Rainiers tacked on four more runs in the ninth and won the game, 8-3.
It was a big hit for Franklin, who is a superior hitter from the left-hand side of the plate.
“I look forward to those right-handed at-bats, they are so valuable to me,” Franklin said. “I think that in the last year I’ve improved right-handed.”
Franklin went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. He has driven in 11 runs in nine games this season, and he’s batting .412.
Franklin wasn’t the only Tacoma infielder wielding a big bat. Shortstop Chris Taylor was 4-for-5 with two singles, a double and a ninth-inning RBI triple. Taylor is 8-for-15 through the first three games in Albuquerque.
“He’s paying attention, he’s learning how they are trying to pitch him,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell said. “This is the second time we’ve seen (Albuquerque). They were going to attack him just like they did last week, and he made his adjustments.”
Taylor’s triple brought home the first of Tacoma’s four insurance runs in the top of the ninth. The rally culminated with a two-run homer by Jesus Montero against Isotopes reliever Josh Judy.
“A one run lead is not safe in this type of a ballpark, and two runs is not safe,” Howell said. “You try to stack on as much as you can.”
Tacoma (4-5) has won back-to-back games for the first time this season. The Rainiers lead the series two games to one, and will try for their first series win of 2014 on Monday night.
Tacoma is without Monday’s scheduled starter Blake Beavan, who is being promoted to Seattle. Howell and pitching coach Jamie Navarro settled on long reliever Brandon Maurer to start in his spot… The Mariners announced that Taijuan Walker will make a rehabilitation start for Tacoma on Tuesday at Cheney Stadium. He’ll face the Salt Lake Bees at 6:05 p.m.
The series and trip end with a 5:35 p.m. (PDT) game Monday. Tacoma starts Brandon Maurer (0-0, 1.42 ERA) against Albuquerque’s Stephen Fife (0-2, 14.73).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.