After his team lost three straight to Las Vegas and eight of nine overall, Tacoma leadoff hitter Boog Powell tried to change things up.
Twice Powell bunted for hits while leading off the first and fifth innings. Even though his bunt hits did not lead to a run, the different strategy seem to set the tone Sunday afternoon.
Powell came around to score the go-ahead run after a third-inning walk as the Rainiers salvaged one game of a four-game set against the 51s, 12-1, in front of 7,064 at Cashman Field.
“I’ve been struggling and I’ve been trying to get on with the guys behind me,” said Powell, who reached base in four of six trips to the plate. “I got two walks and two hits, and it worked today. It’s a good team win to bounce back from three losses.”
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Powell, who was caught stealing in the first, had a stolen base in the fifth.
“Powell does what he does,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach, whose team had 15 hits and no errors. “He makes the pitchers work. He’s playing the game he’s suppose to — to get to the big leagues.”
Holding a 4-1 lead, Tacoma (12-11) scored four runs the seventh, and added four more in the eighth — thanks to Ed Lucas’ grand slam to left. It was Tacoma’s first slam of the season and the year’s first homer for Lucas.
Besides the offensive output, Rainiers starter James Paxton (3-2) was stellar.
After surrendering a two-out homer to T.J. Rivera in the first inning, Paxton threw five shutout innings. In all, he allowed five hits, while striking out seven on 88 pitches, 60 for strikes.
“Today, my fastball was real good. I threw a couple of good curveballs,” said Paxton, a left-hander who had his second consecutive quality start. “My changeup was going well. I made a couple changes in my mechanics. We had to end that (losing) streak and get it going at home.”
Listach liked what he saw from Paxton throughout.
“He was settled down before the home run,” the manager said. “He gave us good innings. (The 51s) came out aggressive. He threw quality strikes.”
In the sixth inning, with Tacoma leading 2-1, Mike Zunino led off with his eighth homer of the season, a blast to left. Shawn O’Malley (3 for 6, four RBIs) added an RBI single for a 4-1 lead.
Tacoma sealed it as four of the first five batters scored in the seventh, which included a Zunino RBI double. O’Malley added another RBI single in the inning.
The Rainiers’ Stefen Romero upped his hitting streak to 14 games with a first-inning single, and Chris Taylor was 3 for 6 and scored two runs.
David Rollins pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and Justin De Fratus threw a scoreless ninth for the Rainiers.
The starter for Las Vegas (11-11), Duane Below (1-1), lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs (three earned).
The Rainiers start a four-game series against the Salt Lake Bees at 6:05 p.m. Monday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma will start right-hander Adrian Sampson (2-1, 3.09 ERA) against Salt Lake lefty Chris Jones (1-1, 7.88). The game can be heard on 850-AM.