Rainiers claim first doubleheader sweep in almost 4 years

t.cotterill@thenewstribune.comJune 7, 2014 

Nick Franklin doesn’t have many problems with Triple-A pitching.

He entered the day hitting .376 in 30 games with the Tacoma Rainiers this season and had two hard hits in his first two at-bats back with the team Friday night at Cheney Stadium.

Franklin scored two runs and helped the Rainiers beat the Albuquerque Isotopes, 5-3, in a shortened seven-inning opener of a doubleheader.

Franklin pushed his batting average to a torrid .384. He went 0-for-3 the second game, but Logan Morrison had two hits and Jabari Blash hit his team-leading ninth home run as the Rainiers won, 4-2.

The Rainiers won both games of a doubleheader for the first time since beating Salt Lake on June 24, 2010. Tacoma also won consecutive games for the first time since May 6.

Friday’s two wins might help the Rainiers (25-35) forget a bad May, when they went 9-21.

But Franklin’s May trip to the Seattle Mariners wasn’t good, either. He played 10 games before being demoted for the second time this season, his major league batting average at .128.

“Bottom line is consistency,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said before the doubleheader. “We want him to get back to doing that as quick as possible.”

Franklin lined a double to left field in his first at-bat since returning to the Rainiers. It advanced Jesus Montero to third base, and Ty Kelly followed with a three-run home run over the right-field wall to catapult the Rainiers to a 3-1 lead in the second.

Albuquerque tied it in the fourth, but the Rainiers answered. Franklin lined a single to right, stole second and scored the go-ahead run on Blash’s double to left. Gabriel Noriega followed with an RBI single, and the Rainiers’ 5-3 lead would stand.

Todd Coffey and Logan Bawcom pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth inning respectively, and Brandon Maurer came in to close the seventh.

Yes, close. Maurer, who was demoted to Tacoma on June 1 after seven starts with the Mariners (and a 7.52 ERA), earned his first professional save. He closed out Albuquerque 1-2-3 in the seventh inning, striking out one.

It was Maurer’s second appearance with the Rainiers appearance since his demotion.

What Franklin didn’t have in Seattle was consistent playing time. His longest stretch of consecutive games with the Mariners came their final six games of May.

He started in all six, but went 2-for-21 (.095) at the plate with an RBI and 10 strikeouts.

“It’s hard for a young player who is used to playing everyday and then not playing everyday,” Howell said. “It’s hard for a veteran player. But if that’s what is asked of you and if that’s what’s needed at that point in time, then you have to try to make adjustments quicker and not let it bother you.”

Blash got the Rainiers on the scoreboard in the second game with a 2-run blast in the bottom of the second. Then Morrison scored Xavier Avery with a single in the fifth and later scored on a balk to score the Rainiers’ fourth run, which proved enough to win.

SHORT HOPS

Morrison played both games of the doubleheader (the opener at first base and the nightcap in the designated hitter role). He’s played 14 rehab games with the Rainiers after being placed on the disabled list April 16 with a strained right hamstring.

ON TAP

Jordan Pries (3-4, 2.79 ERA) takes the mound for Tacoma at 5:05 p.m. Saturday at Cheney Stadium with right-hander Red Patterson (2-5, 4.61) starting for Albuquerque. Game will be broadcast on 850-AM.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 t.cotterill@thenewstribune.com @TJCotterill

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