Taijuan Walker delivered a strong start, and the Rainiers narrowly avoided a bullpen meltdown in a 6-4 victory over Nashville on Thursday night.
Making his second start since being optioned to Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners, Walker delivered 6 1/3 shutout innings. He gave up three hits and two walks, and struck out two. Rainiers manager Pat Listach took him out after 99 pitches.
“He competed and battled,” Listach said. “He didn’t have his best fastball command, but he threw some good changeups and some good curveballs. He went after them, he pitched inside — he did a lot of good things.”
Walker left the game with a 4-0 lead. Tacoma nudged a run across in the third inning, when a hit-and-run single by Guillermo Heredia set up a sacrifice fly by Mike Freeman.
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The Rainiers added three more runs in the fifth inning, sending nine batters to the plate against Nashville starter Daniel Mengden. Stefen Romero and Daniel Robertson had run-scoring singles during the rally.
Mengden — who entered the game with a 1.34 ERA in 10 starts for Nashville — allowed four runs over five innings. It was the most runs he had ever allowed in a Triple-A game.
With the game seemingly in hand, Dan Vogelbach launched a long two-run homer to right-center in the top of the ninth inning. The high-arching blast came short of hitting the mammoth guitar-shaped scoreboard which highlights First Tennessee Park.
“That was pretty impressive,” Listach said. “This whole week has been really good. He’s made some adjustments.”
It turned out that the Rainiers needed Vogelbach’s homer.
Nashville rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring four runs against Rainiers reliever David Rollins with a steady stream of hits.
Andrew Kittredge was brought in, and the Sounds proceeded to load the bases before Kittredge struck out Matt Chapman to end the game.
“The ninth inning — those things happen,” Listach said. “The bottom line is that we were able to get out of it.”
Mariners reliever Tony Zych pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two. It was his first injury rehabilitation appearance for Tacoma. … Evan Scribner is expected to make a rehab appearance for the Rainiers on Friday. Scribner has been on the disabled list since spring training with a severe lat strain.
The road trip ends with a game on Friday at 5:05 (PDT). Tacoma starts Zach Lee (0-6, 5.67) against Nashville’s Raul Alcantara (3-0, 0.59).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.