A stiff wind blowing in from right field made home runs a lot more difficult to hit in the Tacoma Rainiers’ series opener at Isotopes Park on Thursday night.
The solution for the Rainiers? Simple. Just hit lots of singles.
Tacoma had 19 singles in a 21-hit attack, cruising to a 12-3 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes.
“A lot of ground balls went through the infield, this is a fast infield,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
Much of the attack came from the bottom of the lineup. Recent call-ups from Double-A Zach Shank and Steve Baron — the No. 8 and 9 hitters — each had four hits. Combined, they reached base nine times and scored six runs.
“That shows how smart I am, I had them hitting eighth and ninth and they reached base nine times,” said a laughing Listach. “It was good to see Shank got not just his first Triple-A hit, but his first four.”
It was the 14th win in the past 20 games for Tacoma (33-35), which pulled two games of the .500 mark for the first time since the team was 12-14 on May 5.
Early on, it didn’t look like the game was going to be such a blowout.
Tacoma faced veteran left-hander John Lannan, who shut down the Rainiers for eight innings Saturday at Cheney Stadium. The Rainiers managed to push three runs across with four singles in the second inning, including a two-run base hit by Chris Taylor.
It was 4-0 after five innings, with Rainiers starter Sam Gaviglio keeping the Isotopes in check, when Albuquerque started to get sloppy.
Tacoma had a runner at first with two outs when Shawn O’Malley hit a bouncer to second baseman Angelys Nina, who fielded the ball and looked to flip it to the shortstop covering second base for the force out — but instead, Cristhian Adames failed to cover the base.
With extended life in the inning, Jesus Montero ripped an RBI single to left, chasing Lannan. Reliever Boone Whiting entered and balked in a run before allowing a run-scoring single to Stefen Romero, making the score 7-0.
Gaviglio (7-5) pitched six shutout innings to earn the win. He allowed four hits and one walk, while striking out seven.
Left-handed reliever David Rollins joined the club and pitched a scoreless seventh inning, allowing two hits. Rollins was suspended 80 games on March 27 when he tested positive for the performance enhancing drug stanozolol. As a Major League Rule 5 Draft pick, the Mariners must add Rollins to the major league roster when he suspension ends July 4, or else offer him on waivers and ultimately return him to the Houston Astros. He’s allowed to pitch for the Rainiers on a rehabilitation assignment until his suspension ends.
Tacoma sends right-hander Forrest Snow (4-4, 2.43 ERA) to the mound at 6:05 p.m. (PDT) Friday. Albuquerque is expected to start left-hander Yohan Flande (2-2, 6.41).