Jesus Montero and the Tacoma Rainiers might be disappointed when the New Orleans Zephyrs leave town — particularly their left-handed pitchers.
After driving in six runs during Tuesday’s blowout, Montero drove in another three against the Zephyrs on Wednesday night, including a long, two-run home run in the first inning that cleared the “R” Yard party deck — the whole thing — beyond the fence in left field and paved the way for a 6-1 Tacoma Rainiers victory before a crowd of 2,505 at Cheney Stadium.
Rainiers starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio didn’t need any more than Montero’s blast. He held New Orleans scoreless throughout a sterling eight-inning, four-hit effort. In his previous start, the 25-year-old right-hander pitched a career-high 8 1/3 innings in a win over Round Rock.
“He was changing speeds. He was effective. He was throwing strikes,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “He was getting a lot of outs in the strike zone. … He wasn’t getting a lot of hard contact. That means his ball was moving a little bit and he was locating pretty good.”
Only one New Orleans batter reached second base against Gaviglio, who issued one walk and struck out five. The Zephyrs finally scored in the ninth against Tacoma reliever Kevin Gregg, who allowed an RBI double to first baseman Derek Dietrich.
Montero finished 2 for 3 with two walks and has batted 6 for 8 through the first two games of this four-game series. His homer came against Zephyrs starter Travis Blackley (a former Rainier and Seattle Mariner) one day after he hit a grand slam off left-hander Justin Nicolino.
And it’s not just Montero. The Rainiers (24-30) have tallied 14 runs and 17 hits in seven innings — three on Tuesday and four on Wednesday — against the two New Orleans lefty starters they’ve faced so far. Tacoma’s lineup Wednesday featured seven right-handers and a switch-hitter.
There’s more good news for Tacoma — New Orleans is scheduled to send lefties to the mound on Thursday and Friday, too.
“It’s easier for us, for sure, to face a lefty, because you know how it is,” said Montero, who is batting .315 this season. “We’ve been taking advantage of that, so it’s been better for us.”
It was also another productive day at the plate for Rainiers first baseman Patrick Kivlehan, who doubled twice and has recorded two hits in each of his past four games. His first double, which led off the second inning, was later followed by a Leury Bonilla RBI single and Shawn O’Malley’s two-out RBI double that pushed Tacoma’s lead to 4-0.
Montero made it 5-0 with an RBI single in the fourth, and Stefen Romero drove him in two batters later with a two-out single of his own.
“They put together some good at-bats, top to bottom,” Listach said. “Everybody put together good at-bats, and it’s good to see. We pretty much have a right-handed dominant lineup and it was good to see some lefties that hopefully we can have some good approaches against, and we’ve been doing a really good job.”
Tacoma’s four-game series against the Zephyrs continues with a 7:05 p.m. game Thursday at Cheney Stadium. Right-hander Forrest Snow (2-4, 2.79 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rainiers against left-hander Pat Misch (4-4, 3.12). The game can be heard on 850-AM.