Coming off a walk-off win Tuesday night, the Tacoma Rainiers were trying to avoid a letdown Wednesday night against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
They did, and the Rainiers extended their longest winning streak of the season with a 4-2 Pacific Coast League victory over the Sky Sox in front of 3,046 fans at Cheney Stadium.
“Everyone’s making the right adjustments and getting the barrel on the baseball,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “We’re putting some wins together, which is what we needed to see.”
Tacoma has a seven-game win streak, its longest since the Rainiers won 10 in a row at the end of April 2013.
Justin Smoak, on a rehab assignment from the Mariners for a left quadriceps strain, started for the first time, at designated hitter . He went 0-3 with a walk. Currently on the 15-day DL, Smoak is eligible to return to the Mariners’ lineup June 25.
For the second straight game, Tacoma’s pitching staff bounced back after a rocky start but gave up only one earned run. Starter James Gillheeney gave up that earned run on a home run to the second batter he faced, Tim Smalling.
The Sky Sox added a run in the second, when Rainiers third basemen Gabriel Norriega threw wide of first on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Garcia that allowed Jackson Williams to score from third.
But after those miscues, the Rainiers pitchers kept Colorado Springs scoreless. Gillheeney (3-6, 5.36 ERA) allowed four hits and struck out four over five innings.
“At the beginning, he was struggling a little bit, but he picked it up. From what we could see, his tempo was off a little bit, and then once he speeded it up, he started making better pitches,” Howell said.
Gillheeney picked up the victory thanks to Tacoma’s hitters. In the third, the Rainiers responded with two runs of their own. With the bases loaded, Ty Kelly lashed a single to right field that scored two runs.
Kelly then gave Tacoma a lead in the fifth with a solo home run to left-center field off Manuel Corpas. It was Kelly’s 10th home run of the year — one short of his career season high.
A homer from Chris Taylor in the sixth finished out the scoring for Tacoma.
Taijuan Walker takes the mound Thursday, as the Rainiers wrap up their four-game series at 7:05 p.m. with the Sky Sox. Walker (1-1, 4.32 ERA) faces lefty Brian Burres (0-1, 11.57). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.andy.bixler@ thenewstribune.com