Mike Zunino’s home run streak came to an end, but he’s not going to lose any sleep over it.
Zunino drove in three runs with a pair of singles in the Tacoma Rainiers’ 11-7 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas in the series opener Tuesday night at Southwest University Park.
The catcher’s streak of five consecutive games with a home run came to an end, but he raised his league-leading RBI total to 18.
“I really wasn’t trying to hit home runs,” Zunino said. “I was trying to have quality at-bats. And you know what? Home runs come with that.”
Zunino came to the plate with runners at second and third in the top of the fourth, and he grounded a two-run single into center field against El Paso starter Jeremy Guthrie to give Tacoma a 3-2 lead.
“In those situations, you know how a guy is going to pitch you, and I wanted to stay up the middle and at least get one (runner) in,” said Zunino.
Later in that inning, Mike Baxter pulled a three-run homer to right field, capping off a six-run rally.
In a bit of an oddity, Tacoma scored in just two innings in the game: a six-run fourth inning and a five-run sixth. El Paso scored in six different innings and lost.
The five-run fifth was highlighted by another Zunino RBI single and Rob Brantly’s two-run double down the right field line.
Tacoma starter Cody Martin improved his record to 3-0 on the season. Martin lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs. Relievers Paul Fry and Mayckol Guaipe finished the game, allowing the remainder of Tacoma’s overworked bullpen to get some rest.
Former Seattle U pitcher Eric Yardley made his Triple-A debut for El Paso, pitching two scoreless innings. Yardley signed with the San Diego Padres as an undrafted senior in 2013. … In a moment out of the movie “Bull Durham,” Rainiers shortstop Chris Taylor drilled the El Paso mascot, Chico, with an errant throw to first on a ground ball in the seventh inning. Chico was standing in the corner of the first base dugout when struck by Taylor’s high-velocity throw. … Tacoma’s Ed Lucas had two hits, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
The Rainiers’ series at El Paso continues Wednesday at 10:05 a.m. Tacoma will start left-hander James Paxton (0-2, 11.37 ERA) against El Paso righty Daniel McCutchen (2-0, 7.36).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.