Up and down the lineup, the Rainiers are showing an early tendency to tack on runs.
“The thing about this team is we’re pretty solid one through nine,” infielder Ed Lucas said. “We’re tough outs — all nine of us. I’m looking forward to see where we take this.”
On Friday night, a four-run fifth inning solidified an early lead, and the Rainiers beat Albuquerque for the second consecutive day at Cheney Stadium, this time 5-2.
“Guys strung together some pretty good at-bats there,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “That’s pretty much been the model of our spring training, and since the season started, is grind out every at-bat. And they’ve been grinding them out, and good things happen for us.”
Efren Navarro got his first hit with Tacoma in the first inning. He singled to left center to score Shawn O’Malley from third.
That 1-0 lead would carry the Rainiers until the fifth inning, when Navarro’s bloop single to center put runners at the corners with two outs. Mike Zunino singled — he was 2 for 4 with an RBI — to score O’Malley.
Navarro eventually scored on a passed ball — high and tight that nearly hit Lucas. But Lucas then sliced a double down the right field line to score Zunino and Mike Baxter. Lucas was 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
“It’s the (Pacific Coast League), you can never have enough runs,” Lucas said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
True. Sometimes weird things happen.
Cody Martin was perfect for Tacoma through four innings, retiring 12 in a row with four strikeouts. Only two balls left the infield during that span — both in the air and both hauled in by Baxter in left.
But in the sixth, Martin gave up back-to-back, one-out hits to Joey Wong and Rafael Ynoa. The Isotopes were still scoreless at that point, until Ryan Casteel recorded a bizarre single that ricocheted off of second base, scoring Albuquerque’s only two runs.
“He had a chance to get out of the sixth inning — ball hits the second base bag,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “He really located, he got ahead of hitters, he worked fast, good tempo. Once he got ahead he made them chase his pitch. He was really good tonight, that was key.”
Martin got the win in his Rainiers debut. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with seven strikeouts.
David Hale took the loss — the only run he gave up was on Navarro’s single in the first.
Tacoma’s David Rollins and Blake Parker combined for 3 2/3 innings in relief, shutting out Albuquerque and allowing only two hits.
“Rollins came in — another outstanding job,” Listach said. “Parker came in, gave off a leadoff double (in the ninth), and pitched out of it.”
Five Tacoma players — Boog Powell, Stefen Romero, O’Malley, Zunino and Lucas — all have two-game hitting streaks brewing, and Zunino has two infield hits in two days.
“I’m not (much of a runner), it’s early,” Zunino said. “I try to do what I can when the legs are feeling good. It’s one of those where I always try to get down the line.”
Said Listach: “He’s got the green light, too. I’m waiting for him to steal a base.”
Navarro got his first hit with Tacoma on Friday night. During his five previous seasons in the PCL, he put up a .354 batting average in 68 games against the Rainiers, including 22 doubles, 41 runs scored and 41 RBIs. … Martin, a Gonzaga University product, led NCAA Division I qualified pitchers in ERA (0.86, five earned runs in 52.1 innings) during his senior season in 2011. … Dating back to Aug. 16, 2015, when he played for Triple-A Durham (Tampa Bay), Powell has reached base safely in 15 straight games. … Powell’s full name is Herschel Mack “Boog” Powell IV. He’s not related to the former Baltimore Orioles first baseman of the same name. … Tyler Smith and Dario Pizzano made their Triple-A debuts on Friday. They were previously teammates at Double-A Jackson.
Lefty James Paxton will make his season debut in Tacoma after Nathan Karns beat him out for a starting gig in Seattle — the two are in the same three hole in their respective rotations. Paxton will face right-hander Jeff Hoffman.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Saturday and the game will be broadcast on 850-AM.