When Mike Zunino was called up by the Seattle Mariners on July 20, it made sense to figure that the Rainiers were going to see a drop-off in power from the catcher position.
But don’t tell that to Rob Brantly.
Tacoma’s catcher launched a tiebreaking three-run homer in the top of the sixth inning on Monday night in Salt Lake City, leading the Rainiers to a 6-4 victory over the Bees.
The homer — Brantly’s career-high 11th of the season — helped Tacoma complete a four-game series sweep of the Bees. Tacoma has won 12 of the last 14 games, and improved its record to a PCL-best 59-42 on the year.
“To win four games here, that’s really good,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We played good baseball, we didn’t kick the ball around, we pitched good and we got timely hitting.”
The game started with a bang. Daniel Robertson ripped Salt Lake starter Kyle McGowin’s first pitch of the night deep over the left field fence for a leadoff home run.
Tacoma added a run in the second inning when Robertson singled, then scored from first base on Dario Pizzano’s double to the gap in left-center.
But Salt Lake rallied to score three times in the bottom of the fifth inning against Tacoma starter Cody Martin, briefly taking a 3-2 lead. Eastside Catholic graduate Cal Towey hit a game-tying RBI triple, and scored the go-ahead run on a single by former Mariners infielder Brendan Ryan.
That set the stage for Brantly.
Tacoma opened the sixth inning with three straight singles against McGowin. Stefen Romero and Dan Vogelbach connected first, and then D.J. Peterson brought home Romero with the tying run on a base hit to left.
Brantly waited for a fastball from McGowin, then drilled it onto the berm beyond the right field fence for a three-run shot.
“He has a lot of pull power,” said Listach. “Lately he’s taken the ‘control the zone’ to a new level for himself. Today the three-run homer came after he laid off two offspeed pitches and worked himself into a good count.”
Martin (9-6) left after six innings, allowing three runs. Relief arms Donn Roach, Kraig Sitton, and Blake Parker finished off the game with Parker earning his 17th save.
The sweep was Tacoma’s first at Salt Lake since the team won four straight in 2010, July 4-7. … Tacoma swept Salt Lake at home earlier this season, and finished the season-series 13-3 against the Bees. … Former Seattle Mariners catcher John Buck was in attendance during batting practice. A Salt Lake City resident, Buck retired following the 2014 season.
Tacoma opens a five-game home series against El Paso on Tuesday night at 7:05. Tacoma starts Jarrett Grube (1-1, 4.15 ERA) against El Paso’s Carlos Pimentel (9-5, 6.04).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.