The Colorado Sky Sox scored early and often, then didn’t stop Friday night, beating the Tacoma Rainiers, 11-4, at Cheney Stadium.
The Sky Sox combined for six runs off seven hits at the expense of the Rainiers’ bullpen, which had only allowed seven earned runs in Tacoma’s previous 13 games.
“They hit some balls hard, but there were a lot of infield hits and a lot of jams,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “And then you get the big bang, and two or three runs jump up on the board just like that.”
That “big bang” came in the fifth inning, when the Sky Sox’s Evan Frey lined an offering from Chance Ruffin that scored two runs.
Ruffin was pitching in relief of Matt Palmer, who started for the Rainiers for the first time since coming off the disabled list. The right-hander was clearly still feeling the effects of an inflamed shoulder, however — he only lasted 22/3 innings, allowing nine hits and five Sky Sox runners to cross the plate.
“It kind of went the same way as his last outing,” Howell said. “His ball moves a lot, and everything was getting out over the plate. At this level, when it gets out over the plate, they’re going to whack it.”
A solo home run by Nick Franklin in the ninth gave the Rainiers a single run in four separate innings, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the 11-3 lead Colorado Springs had built. Franklin’s homer snapped an 0-17 drought.
The Sky Sox put up three innings of three or more runs, in the third, fifth and eighth.
“When you have 14 hits and only four runs, it’s not good,” Howell said. “It means we’re leaving men on base and not taking advantage of opportunities.”
Two everyday Mariners players made appearances in the Rainiers lineup on Friday. Michael Saunders made his first rehab start since landing on the Mariners’ 15-day DL June 11 for inflammation in his right shoulder.
Saunders watched three straight pitches go by in his first at-bat before swinging on and connecting with a fastball he sent to shallow left for a base hit. The outfielder roped another single in the fourth inning and finished his night 3-4 with an RBI and a walk.
Saunders will start in right field tomorrow — he’s eligible to return to the Mariners on June 26.
Justin Smoak also continued his rehab assignment Friday. Smoak has started off slowly in Tacoma, going 1-for-9, and continued that pace Friday, when he went 0-3 with a strikeout. He left the game in the seventh inning, replaced by Ji-Man Choi.
The Mariners’ Corey Hart, who has been on the DL for a hamstring injury since May 22, is expected to be in the lineup at DH for the Rainiers Saturday.
Tacoma opens up a four-game road series with Oklahoma City on Saturday. Rainiers right-hander Andrew Carraway (3-4, 4.45 ERA) will face off against lefty Brett Oberholtzer (1-2, 4.88 ERA). The game can be heard on 850-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org