Taijuan Walker’s troubles in the fourth inning were brief but costly, and it was almost enough to put the Tacoma Rainiers away.
Walker yielded three runs on two home runs in the fourth inning, but Tacoma’s offense responded with six runs over a span of three innings to help lift the Rainiers to a 6-4 win over the Omaha Storm Chasers on Wednesday night at Cheney Stadium.
He kept Omaha scoreless through three innings before former Rainier and Seattle Mariner Carlos Peguero led off the fourth with a solo home run. Matt Fields followed with a two-run blast with one out.
Walker got out of the inning and pitched two more scoreless innings before being relieved.
“Taijuan got hit a little bit there, and he shut it down after that and gave us a chance,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell said. “That’s all you want, is to give us a chance to come back and score, and our guys did. He made his adjustment and started throwing his change-up a little bit more, and his change-up was very good today.”
Logan Kensing replaced Walker and earned his sixth win of the season after yielding three hits and one run in two innings. Todd Coffey notched his 10th save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
Peguero, who hit 53 homers in three seasons with Tacoma, has 28 homers this season for Omaha and leads the minor leagues with 13 this month. Fields, a Rainier Beach High School alum, has 23 homers this season.
“You get the ball out over the plate, you can throw 150 miles per hour, it doesn’t matter,” Howell said of Walker’s pitches that were hit for home runs. “You get it out over the middle of the plate and up a little bit, and you’re going to get hit. He made a couple pitches there that just were just not what he wanted to do. Those guys aren’t going to miss those pitches.”
The Rainiers didn’t muster much offense until the fifth, when a two-run homer by John Hicks cut the deficit to 3-2. Ji-Man Choi’s single in the sixth drove in Stefen Romero with the tying run.
Omaha took the lead again in the seventh when Paulo Orlando lined a single off Kensing to drive in Whit Merrifield.
The Rainiers answered in the bottom of the inning, when Ketel Marte tied the game with a single that drove in Gabriel Noriega.
Justin Smoak’s line drive to the right-field gap drove in Marte with the go-ahead run. Ty Kelly added an insurance run when he drove in Romero for his 75th RBI this season.
“I think the second and third time around the order, you start to get a feel for a guy who is throwing a lot of offspeed,” said Kelly, who went 2-for-4. “Once you see it a couple times, you start to make some adjustments, and I think that’s what we did.”
A single by Romero in the sixth extended his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest by any Tacoma player this season. He’s had nine multi-hit games in that span. … Noriega, who doubled in the third and seventh, finished 4-for-4.
The Rainiers continue their eight-game homestand at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against the Storm Chasers. The Rainiers are scheduled to start right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (4-5, 3.77 ERA) against left-hander Buddy Bauman (1-3, 2.63 ERA).