The first start of Danny Farquhar’s professional career wasn’t slated to last more than three or four innings, the emphasis placed on refining his mechanics and developing his repertoire of pitches more than anything else.
To that end, he did fine. But it wouldn’t have mattered much if he hadn’t, given how well his Tacoma Rainiers teammates hit the ball against the New Orleans Zephyrs on Tuesday.
Led by four hits and six RBIs from first baseman Jesus Montero, whose second-inning grand slam staked Tacoma to a six-run lead, the Rainiers blasted New Orleans, 11-2, before a crowd of 2,315 in the opener of a four-game series at Cheney Stadium.
Farquhar pitched 32/3 innings and threw 35 of his 51 pitches for strikes, holding New Orleans scoreless through three frames before allowing a two-run homer to second baseman Derek Dietrich in the fourth inning, the only blemish on what was otherwise a solid outing.
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A 28-year-old right-hander, Farquhar spent all of last season with the Seattle Mariners and posted a 2.66 ERA in 71 appearances out of the bullpen. He began this season in the big leagues, too, but was sent down after slogging his way to a 6.46 ERA through his first 20 appearances.
Rainiers manager Pat Listach said he’s not sure of the Mariners’ long-term plan for Farquhar, or whether he’ll remain a part of Tacoma’s starting rotation in the foreseeable future. But he liked the way Farquhar pitched Tuesday.
“I thought he threw the ball great,” Listach said. “He’s working on a few things mechanically, and he did a nice job. He threw the ball great. The two-run homer was a pretty decent pitch. Sometimes hitters hit good pitches.”
Tacoma (22-30) hit a bunch of them, good or bad. Montero drove in Tacoma’s first two runs with a double in the first inning, then made it 6-0 when he crushed a grand slam off New Orleans starter Justin Nicolino with two outs in the second.
Montero’s six RBIs tied a career high. He did it first in 2011 with Scranton Wilkes-Barre in the New York Yankees’ organization and did it again last season with Tacoma.
“(I) just try to feel good every single time at home plate,” said Montero, who boosted his batting average to .310 and has 39 RBIs in 51 games. “Sometimes you lose confidence. Sometimes you get tough pitchers, which has been happening. But like I said, I felt good today, and it felt good to help the team win.”
Nicolino also allowed back-to-back homers to Patrick Kivlehan and Shawn O’Malley (his first of the season) to start the third inning, after which the Rainiers led 8-0 and were well on their way to an easy victory.
James Jones added a home run to lead off the fourth — his first homer in 540 at-bats with the Rainiers and Mariners, dating to April 30, 2014, with Tacoma — and O’Malley followed with a two-run, two-out single later in the inning.
Listach said it helped that a lefty, Nicolino, was pitching to Tacoma’s right-hand-heavy lineup.
“It gives them a chance to have a little bit of an advantage with some breaking balls coming in to them instead of everything going away,” Listach said. “Kivlehan, O’Malley, Montero — they all took advantage of some pitches coming in to them.”
Tacoma’s four-game series against New Orleans continues with a 7:05 p.m. game Wednesday at Cheney Stadium. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio is scheduled to pitch for the Rainiers against left-hander Travis Blackley for the Zephyrs. The game can be heard on 850-AM.