Justin Ruggiano had 21 days between the Seattle Mariners designating him for assignment and his Tacoma Rainiers debut.
It appears that break has done him well.
Ruggiano’s bat has been red hot in four games with the Rainiers, and his three home runs led Tacoma to a 14-4 victory over the El Paso Chihuahuas on Saturday at Cheney Stadium.
Ruggiano attributes extra work in the batting cage for his success in Tacoma.
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“Me and (hitting coach Cory) Snyder have been on the same page,” he said. “We’ve been able to talk a lot about positioning and approach. It’s helped me out a bunch.”
After waiting until the seventh inning the previous night to find the scoreboard, the Rainiers wasted no time on Saturday. Chris Taylor and Jesus Montero, fresh off matching 0-for-5 nights, each reached base in the first inning.
Ruggiano, on a 2-2 count, smoked a ball into right center that comfortably cleared the wall. That gave starter Stephen Landazuri a three-run lead to work with.
Ruggiano wasn’t finished. Again with two runners aboard, Ruggiano left the park for a second time in the fifth inning — also over the right-field wall.
As if he had not done enough damage to the Chihuahuas, Ruggiano added one more home run for good measure in the seventh inning. This time, the solo shot went to left field.
That gave Ruggiano seven RBIs, a single-game high for both his career and this season for the Rainiers. It was his second career three-homer game, the first coming on May 9, 2009, with the Durham Bulls.
Ruggiano has been at DH since joining the Rainiers. He said he is itching to get back on the field, but realizes after three weeks off he needed to ease into it.
Tacoma manager Pat Listach said he plans to let Ruggiano DH for a few more days before putting him on the field.
Montero joined in playing long ball, jumping on the first pitch in the third inning for a solo home run. For good measure, he launched a three-run moon shot into left field in the eighth inning. He went 3 for 5 and took his home run total to 13 on the season.
Landazuri would only need Ruggiano’s opening home run to secure his first win of the season. He threw five strong innings, allowing two runs. He struck out five and gave up four hits and two walks.
The five home runs were single-game high for Tacoma this season.
Rainiers outfielder Patrick Kivlehan was selected by Team USA for the Pan American Games.
Tacoma right-hander Justin Germano (6-3, 3.15) will face El Paso lefty Jason Lane (6-4, 4.59) in game three of the four-game series. First pitch will be at 1:35 p.m. Sunday and can be heard on 850-AM.