After an ugly-looking loss the night before, the Tacoma Rainiers immediately returned to playing good, clean baseball on Saturday.
Tacoma pitched well, played strong defense, and got hits in key situations during a 5-3 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes. The victory improved the Rainiers’ record to 7-2 on the season.
The game was tightly contested, with Tacoma taking the lead for good in the seventh inning.
Chris Taylor singled home Boog Powell with the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh, breaking a 3-3 tie. After Stefen Romero followed with a single to right that sent Taylor to third, Mike Zunino hit a sacrifice fly to drive in an insurance run.
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Romero and Zunino each had two hits. Zunino’s line-drive homer down the left-field line in the top of the sixth inning briefly gave Tacoma a 3-2 lead.
Zunino has homered in each of the past three games he has played.
“He’s swinging the bat pretty good,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said with a smile. “He’s going to DH (Sunday). We’ll rest him from catching, but when he’s swinging the bat like this we want to ride it out.”
Sammamish resident Adrian Sampson started on the mound for Tacoma, and after allowing two runs in the first inning he settled into a groove. He ended up going six innings, giving up three runs, and earning the win.
“Sampson didn’t come out as sharp as I’m sure he wanted to come out, but once they scored the two runs he beared down,” Listach said. “He kept us in the game for six innings, and we won it in the seventh.”
Tacoma reliever Steve Johnson protected the 5-3 lead by pitching scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. He retired six of the seven batters he faced, striking out three.
Mayckol Guaipe worked a shutout ninth to earn his third save. Guaipe and co-closer Blake Parker are a combined 5 for 5 in save opportunities this season.
Former Gonzaga University left-hander Ryan Carpenter started for Albuquerque, allowing three runs (two earned) over six innings.
Efren Navarro tripled and scored in the second inning to put Tacoma on the board. The Rainiers tied the game in the fourth inning, 2-2, when Zunino hit a leadoff double and scored on a double by Ed Lucas.
Taylor benefitted from a postgame scoring change late Friday night, when a review by the official scorer took away his error and credited a hit to Stephen Cardullo on a hard grounder that Taylor was unable to backhand in the second inning. The change resulted in an additional earned run charged to Tacoma starter James Paxton. ... Romero tripled in the first inning for his third this season. He already has six multiple-hit games.
Tacoma begins a stretch of three afternoon games over the next four days with a 12:35 p.m. first pitch on Sunday. Tacoma starts Donn Roach (1-0, 3.18) against Albuquerque’s Eddie Butler (1-0, 4.50).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.