Tacoma jumped out to an early lead, and that was all starting pitcher Jordan Pries needed in the Rainiers’ 6-2 win over the Round Rock Express.
Tacoma hit five singles and scored three runs in the top of the first inning before Pries threw his first pitch.
“It’s awesome,” Pries said of the early lead. “It’s always good coming out knowing that you’ve already got some support.”
Pries didn’t need many runs. The Triple-A rookie delivered six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. He walked one and struck out five, earning his team-leading ninth win of the season.
“I threw a lot of fastballs, which is something I did when I first came up early in the season,” Pries said. “When I fell behind in the count, I stayed with the sinker and got some ground balls.”
Batting fourth and fifth in the lineup, Stefen Romero and Justin Smoak provided a lot of offense. Each of them had three hits, with Smoak contributing two doubles and three runs batted in.
All told, Tacoma had 15 hits on the night and never relinquished the lead.
The win was the fifth in the last six games for Tacoma, and it clinched a winning record on the current road trip.
The standings in the Pacific North tightened up as well. Second-place Reno lost on a walk-off homer in New Orleans, and the Rainiers are only two games behind them. First-place Sacramento lost to Oklahoma City, and Tacoma pulled four games out of first.
Four games back is as close as Tacoma has been to first place since May 20.
“Reno and Sacramento play each other and beat each other up a bit — they’ve got five games left against each other,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell said. “We need to keep playing our game and putting W’s up on the board.”
That last part hasn’t been any trouble lately. Tacoma has won 19 of its last 28 games.
Outfielder James Jones rejoined the team after being optioned to Tacoma on Sunday by the Seattle Mariners. He went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI in the leadoff spot. … Romero extended his hitting streak to 11 consecutive games, while Smoak has an eight-gamer. … Shortstop Ketel Mar te and outfielder Julio Morban remain day-to-day with nagging injuries.
Tacoma sends right-hander Forrest Snow (2-2, 2.18 ERA) to the mound in the final game of the road trip at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday. Round Rock is scheduled to start rehabilitating Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland (0-1, 9.64).