EL PASO, Texas — What was supposed to be the Taijuan Walker show turned into Jabari Blash’s breakout on Tuesday night in El Paso.
After the rehabilitating Walker struggled with his fastball command for two innings, Blash launched three home runs as the Rainiers emphatically ended a four-game losing streak with a 13-4 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Blash hit a towering three-run homer to center field in the third inning off El Paso starter Keyvius Sampson, giving Tacoma a 5-1 lead.
He led off the fifth inning by ripping the first pitch reliever Tim Sexton threw down the left-field line for a solo homer to make it 9-2.
Blash’s third shot was a majestic three-run smash to left field off Sexton in the sixth inning, making it 13-3.
He had a shot to tie a Pacific Coast League record with a fourth consecutive homer when he batted in the eighth inning, but he struck out swinging against Branch Kloess. He finished with seven runs batted in.
“He had a great day, what are you going to say?” said Rainiers manager Roy Howell. “I’m proud of the way he stayed back and just hammered the ball. Those were line-drive shots. That’s what we want to see.”
Blash became the first Tacoma player to homer three times in a game since Alex Liddi did it on August 4, 2011 at Albuquerque.
Walker struggled to throw strikes in his second Triple-A start of the season. He walked the first batter he faced, and finished with four walks and a hit batter in two innings. However, he struck out four and allowed just one hit and one run.
“My arm felt good,” said Walker. “My fastball location wasn’t there. I threw a few good curveballs for strikeouts, but four walks isn’t going to cut it.”
After a laborious 33-pitch first inning and then a still-not-easy 23-pitch second inning, Walker had thrown just 28 of 56 pitches for strikes. The Rainiers coaching staff decided to remove him from the game well shy of the predetermined 85-pitch limit.
“He just threw too many pitches,” Howell said. “There is no sense in him going back out there and struggling.”
Xavier Nady and Jesus Montero each chipped in three hits for the Rainiers, and Logan Morrison lifted a three-run homer to right field. Tacoma finished with 14 hits.
The Rainiers are off Wednesday before hosting Albuquerque on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma starts Matt Palmer (1-1, 2.00 ERA) against Albuquerque’s Sam Demel (0-1, 7.59). The game will be broadcast on 850 AM and CBS Sports Network.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers