Stefen Romero hit a two-run home run in the first inning, made a catch at the wall in the second, and generally set the tone Saturday as the Tacoma Rainiers sailed to a brisk 5-1 win over the Fresno Grizzlies at Cheney Stadium.
“You know that you help put runs on the board, and at the same time you want to help your pitcher get out of tough situations,” Romero said. “That catch came early on, a couple of guys were on, and it just feels good to make a play for the pitcher.”
The win was the third in a row for the Rainiers, all coming in this homestand against Fresno.
“A bunch of defensive gems; a lot of good plays out there,” manager Pat Listach said. “(Third baseman Patrick) Kivlehan with the double play early in the game. (Second baseman Ketel) Marte, nice play in the first inning: smoked line drive hit off his hand, threw him out. Romero jumped on the wall and caught a ball in right. Just all the way around we played really solid defense and got some timely hitting. Romero had a big day.”
Romero’s third and fourth home runs of the season marked the sixth multi-home run game of his career and first since August.
Listach said Romero simply is feeling better these days after a run of nagging injuries: a cut finger that became infected, a stiff back in Albuquerque.
“Over the course of the season you’re going to be banged up a little bit and you have to push through small injuries and play with them,” Romero said. “It’s a long season. It’s a grind. And in the minor leagues you’re playing every day with not many off days, and you’ve got to learn to play banged up and just try to help the team win.”
Jesus Montero had two hits and a diving stop at first base. Chris Taylor drew a third-inning walk, extending his on-base streak to 15 games.
The prime beneficiary of offensive and defensive contributions was starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio, who went six innings and evened his record at 2-2.
The Rainiers played in the uniforms of the old Tacoma Tugs, as the team was known in 1979 when it was an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
That season, Tugs pitcher Juan Berenguer struck out a franchise-record 220 batters. Ron Hassey batted .338, while Wayne Cage launched 13 home runs. That team was managed by Gene Dusan.
The Rainiers (10-13) and Grizzlies (11-11) conclude their four-game series starting at 1:35 p.m. Sunday. Probable starting pitchers are Tacoma left-hander Mike Kickham (0-2, 7.94) and Fresno right-hander Asher Wojciechowski in his season debut. Throwback Weekend continues with the home team wearing the uniforms of the old Tacoma Cubs (1966-71). Replica caps will be given to the first 1,000 fans. The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.