The sound sweeping through Cheney Stadium on Thursday night was deceiving. No, the 6,053 fans who lined the seats on Tacoma’s Opening Day weren’t booing.
They were Boog-ing.
The first resounding chorus came in the fifth inning, when centerfielder Boog Powell — who was acquired as part of a six-player Mariners trade with Tampa Bay during the offseason — cranked a two-out, two-run single to center.
That scored Mike Zunino and Chris Taylor, and gave the Rainiers their final lead, as they held on to beat Albuquerque, 6-5.
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“I love it, especially with two outs, bases loaded when I came up like that,” Powell said. “The whole crowd’s getting into it. It fires me up.”
Powell enters the season ranked as Baseball America’s No. 9 prospect in the Mariners organization. He went 2 for 4 with two singles and two RBIs in his first career start with Tacoma.
His go-ahead hit was one of a few fireworks the Rainiers produced.
Stefen Romero finished 3 for 5 with a double and two RBIs. Right-hander Steven Johnson (1-0) picked up his first win with the Rainiers in relief, and Mayckol Guiape added the exclamation point by striking out Jordan Patterson for the save and the game’s final out.
And there were, of course, actual fireworks to cap the season opener.
“Outstanding game, good game to win,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “Big crowd, weather was great. Boog Powell had a big night, Romero had a big night. The guys swung the bats pretty good. I was overly impressed with the way everything went.”
Albuquerque opened the top of first inning with two quick runs, but Romero quickly answered in the bottom half. His opposite-field double scored Powell and Shawn O’Malley to even the score at 2-2.
Efren Navarro broke the deadlock in the third, when his groundout to first scored O’Malley. Mike Baxter then ripped a deep double off the left field wall to drive in Romero.
But the Isotopes answered with three runs in the next two innings to regain the lead. That landed starter Joe Wieland with a no-decision. He pitched four innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. His pitch count quickly escalated to 80.
“I said, ‘Let’s go get Johnson, see if he can get us five, six and seven,’ and he gave us five, six and seven. It was perfect,” Listach said. “I think the pitcher of the night was probably Guiape. He was very impressive for two innings.”
Johnson gave up the go-ahead run in the fifth when Stephen Cardullo singled to center to score Patterson. That made it 5-4 for Albuquerque, but the Isotopes didn’t score again.
Johnson struck out four before Guaipe took over in the eighth. He threw 20 strikes on 21 pitches in two innings to pick up the two-inning save.
Nelson Gonzalez (0-1) took the loss after pitching two-thirds of an inning in the fifth.
Tacoma’s Mike Zunino recorded his first hit of the season — an infield single on a dribbler to third — before Gonzalez walked Taylor and Daniel Robertson to load the bases.
That’s when Powell hit his decisive single.
“Great team win, everyone was swinging the bats tonight,” Powell said. “It just went well and worked out for us.”
Only eight of the players on Tacoma’s 25-man roster return from last season – that group is highlighted by infielders Shawn O’Malley and Chris Taylor, and outfielder Stefen Romero. … First-year Rainiers hitting coach Scott Brosius and Albuquerque’s manager, Glenallen Hill, both played for the New York Yankees during the 2000 world championship run. … Two local high schools were represented in the Opening Day festivities. The Trufant brother trio of Desmond, Isaiah and Marcus — all Wilson High School products who have logged NFL time — threw out the first pitch, while the Sumner marching band was tapped to perform the national anthem. … Opening Day also marked the opening of Cheney Stadium’s new 9,670-square-foot family pavilion, which the Rainiers unveiled in partnership with Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. It includes a playground and regulation-sized Wiffle ball field, and will be open to the public year-round.
Right-hander Cody Martin makes his first career start with the Rainiers at 7:05 p.m. Friday, when they host Albuquerque in game two of the four-game series. Righty David Hale is scheduled to start for the Isotopes, but Colorado Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (abdomen) may be making a rehab start. The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.