Tacoma Rainiers

Double plays trump Zunino blast

Contributing Writer

Mike Zunino homered again, but double plays doomed the Tacoma Rainiers in a 7-5 loss at El Paso on Friday night.

Zunino launched a long two-run homer in the top of the first inning, giving Tacoma a 3-0 lead. But his throwing error in the third allowed the go-ahead run to score, and the Rainiers were never able to regain the lead.

Tacoma grounded into double plays in the fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth innings — each time when trailing by one or two runs and needing a rally.

“We got guys on base, and they were trying to induce ground balls, and they did,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “That’s the second time we’ve grounded into four double plays, and we’ve lost both games. It kills your rally.”

The homer by Zunino was a tape-measure blast, traveling for more than 400 feet as it left the Southwest University Park property and landed in a downtown El Paso alley. It was Zunino’s seventh home run of the season — a total which leads all of minor league baseball.

“That was one of the longest home runs I’ve seen,” Listach said.

Zunino also did a few things he’s working on: he singled to the opposite field, and he drew a walk. He finished the game 2 for 3.

Tacoma starter Donn Roach kept the Chihuahuas off the scoreboard until the third inning. With two runs in and runners at first and second, Alex Dickerson singled to right fielder Mike Baxter. Baxter tried to nab James Loney at home, but his throw was too late. Zunino received it, and tried to nail Hunter Renfroe advancing from first to third — but his throw sailed into left field, and Renfroe scored the go-ahead run.

Renfroe added a two-run homer in the fifth inning, giving El Paso a 6-3 lead.

Stefen Romero responded in kind, lifting a two-run homer of his own onto the left field berm in the top of the sixth to make it 6-5. It was Romero’s third homer of the season.

Tacoma (10-5) settled for a split of the four-game series in El Paso, and a 4-4 record on the eight-game road trip.

Short Hops: Chris Taylor singled in the first inning, extended his hitting streak to 12 straight games. That matches his career best, previously done last June. … Romero returned to the lineup after missing two games with back tightness; he extended his hitting streak to eight games.

On Tap: The Rainiers open a quick four-game homestand against Sacramento on Saturday at 5:05. Sacramento starts Ty Blach (1-1, 6.75) against Tacoma’s Joe Wieland (1-1, 11.32).