The Tacoma Rainiers homered in their first at-bat Sunday, and then again toward their last at-bat.
It was what was in between that did them in.
Abraham Almonte had the leadoff shot for the Rainiers, and Humberto Quintero added a solo blast in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough as they fell, 3-2, to the Albuquerque Isotopes at Cheney Stadium in front of an announced sellout crowd of 6,859.
“When you hit a home run in the first and a home run in the ninth, and nothing in between, it’s probably not going to go too good,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “We had opportunities in between to score, but we didn’t.
“You can’t wait to hit a home run to win a baseball game.”
A pair of doubles for Albuquerque gave the Isotopes a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the first, but Almonte hammered the second pitch he saw over the right-field fence, tying the score.
Almonte started this season with the Mariners, but he was demoted after hitting .198 in 27 games. With Almonte’s blast, Tacoma got a leadoff homer for the second consecutive game — Xavier Avery hit one Saturday night.
“That’s the (Almonte) we know right there,” Howell said. “Two- or three-hit days is something he’s always after, the type of consistency to hit the ball hard each time.”
Almonte finished 3-for-5, moving his average to .218.
A two-run shot to left-center field in the fifth by former Rainier Trayvon Robinson gave the Isotopes a 3-1 lead, which they held until Quintero’s homer with two outs in the ninth.
Almonte then singled to right on a 3-2 count, but Logan Morrison grounded out, ending the Rainiers’ chances at a comeback.
Tacoma starter James Gillheeney (1-6, 6.45 ERA) was inconsistent on the mound, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out eight in 5 innings.
Gillheeney retired five consecutive Isotopes batters from the end of the third to the beginning of the fifth before walking Griff Erickson and then allowing Robinson’s home run one out later.
“I felt like I was just trying to get ahead of guys and let my defense work,” Gillheeney said. “Today I got some strikeouts out of it, but you know, the intention is never really to strike them out — it’s to get ahead and get them out and go deeper into the game.”
The Rainiers wore special camouflage uniforms Sunday for Military Appreciation Day. A pregame ceremony included first pitches from members of four branches of the military and a helicopter flyover.
Tacoma begins an eight-game trip at 5:05 p.m. Monday at Memphis. Top Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker (0-1, 9.00 ERA) will make a rehabilitation start for the Rainiers against Redbirds left-hander Tim Cooney (6-4, 3.59). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.