The Tacoma Rainiers drew their largest crowd of the season to Cheney Stadium on Friday.
Some of the 7,048 came for the postgame fireworks, but there were plenty more during the game, as the Pacific Coast League leaders surged to a 9-4 victory over the Iowa Cubs.
“Two big innings: We score five in one, four in the other,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “You score nine runs, you’re supposed to win that game.”
There was early warning that this would be an offensively powerful night as Iowa leadoff hitter John Andreoli launched Joe Wieland’s first pitch over the left-field wall.
Never miss a local story.
But the Rainiers had an answer. Their first five batters all got hits and came around to score. Those last three runs came on a home run to right-center field by designated hitter Mike Zunino. It was his 10th homer of the season, which leads the team and is third in the Pacific Coast League.
“That was a big home run,” Listach said. “It’s really promising to see him use the opposite field. He’s got power to all fields, and when he does that, that shows he’s making progress with his swing.”
After that, the Cubs chipped away with a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth, cutting Tacoma’s lead to 5-4 after five, when Wieland ( 3-3) departed, turning things over to the bullpen.
Four Tacoma relievers did their part, shutting out the visitors the rest of the way.
“Wieland battled to get through five today,” Listach said. “… They were really aggressive on his fastball the entire day. Once he starts locating it and mixing in his other pitches, he’s pretty good.”
The Tacoma offense provided breathing room with a four-run sixth.
By the end, Zunino and Stefen Romero had three RBIs each, and Boog Powell and Romero had three hits each.
It was the Rainiers’ fourth sellout of the season, although they opened the evening ranked 14th in the 16-team league with an average of 4,015 per home date.
“The third baseman looked over at me and said, ‘You guys get good crowds here,’ ” Listach said. “Yeah, we do; on weekends, yeah. It was nice to see them.”
The Rainiers (25-16) and Cubs (18-21) continue their series at 5:05 p.m. Saturday at Cheney Stadium. The probable pitching matchup is Tacoma left-hander James Paxton (4-2, 3.75) against right-hander Alex Sanabia (0-1 47.25).