D.J. Peterson seemed hardly fazed by his early-season struggles at the plate.
And neither was Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach, which is why he batted Peterson fourth in the lineup on Monday despite his .148 batting average (4-for-27) through the first 10 games.
“I feel like the swing has been there, the timing has been there, the walk-to-strikeout ratio (5-to-7) has been there,” Peterson said. “It’s just keeping confident and swinging at good pitches.”
He found one pitch he particularly enjoyed — the first one he saw in the bottom of the sixth inning. Peterson launched it for a game-tying, two-run home run — his first of the season.
Ben Gamel made it back-to-back homers for a 4-3 Rainiers lead that their scintillating bullpen would not relinquish as Tacoma earned a four-game sweep of the Albuquerque Isotopes at Cheney Stadium before hitting the road for an eight-game road trip.
Steve Baron hit a solo homer in the third inning.
Listach’s eyes lit up when asked about Peterson.
“We put him in the four hole for a reason,” he said. “We thought he was ready to break out.
“I talked to (hitting coach Dave Berg) about it before the game. I said, ‘Look, D.J. is about due. He hasn’t been swinging great but, man, I think today is the day he breaks out.”
The Rainiers almost doubled their season home-run total in what had been the least productive batting order in the Pacific Coast League entering Monday.
But their pitching and defense has so far been the PCL’s best.
Christian Bergman lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits before Casey Fien, Dean Keikhefer and Jean Machi shut Albuquerque down the rest of the way. The Rainiers’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a run in the past 17 1/3 innings.
Might it be the hitters’ turn to break out? Especially as Tacoma prepares to head to the high-altitude, hitter-friendly confines of El Paso and Albuquerque?
“I think the whole team is pretty excited to go to El Paso — except for the pitching staff,” Peterson said.
Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.29 ERA) will start the first game of the Rainiers’ four-game series at El Paso, which will send righty Matt Magill (1-0, 0.75) to the mound at 5:35 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday.
Radio broadcast can be heard on 850-AM.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677