There was only one bit of disappointing news for the Tacoma Rainiers on Thursday night: They could not extend their four-game streak of allowing opponents to score only one run.
But on this night, two was good enough.
They still won, 5-2, before a crowd of 3,572 at Cheney Stadium. And they still swept a four-game series from the visiting Salt Lake Bees — who carried a 15-9 record into this week’s set — for the first time since 2010.
Right-hander Cody Martin bounced back from a pair of rough starts to earn the victory, allowing only four hits and a run in six innings. Stefen Romero reached base four times, drove in a run and made a running catch deep in right field to end the game. Chris Taylor singled, doubled and scored twice.
The Rainiers’ winning streak sits at five games as they venture to Albuquerque for the start of an eight-game road trip. They’ve allowed only six runs in those five victories — and scored 29 — a welcome change after they allowed a total of 30 runs during a four-game losing streak that immediately preceded this winning splurge.
The most impressive part of the turnaround, Rainiers manager Pat Listach said, is that three Tacoma starters — Martin, Joe Wieland and Donn Roach — rebounded from recent struggles and again pitched the way the club had hoped they would.
Tacoma pitching coach Lance Painter deserves some of the credit, Listach said, for helping each correct his approach.
“It was definitely a concern for all three of them,” Listach said. “The reason we brought them over was because they were strike-throwers and they commanded the ball. For a while, all three of them were in a funk.
“… They’re trying to get it back on track, and they did it. Good for them. They’re a group that loves to come in and work. … Painter, he hadn’t been sleeping much at night, trying to make sure those guys get right. I told him today when Martin came out of the game, ‘That’s one nice job you did with Martin.’ They both deserve the credit.”
Martin, a 26-year-old claimed off waivers from Oakland in October, lowered his season ERA from 8.49 to 6.75. Salt Lake got to him for an unearned run in the top of the first on third baseman Kaleb Cowart’s infield single, but Martin allowed only three baserunners in his next five innings to win his first game since April 19.
In his last two starts, Martin lasted only 2 1/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively, allowing nine runs against Sacramento and six at Las Vegas. He also walked four batters in each of those games. On Thursday, he walked one.
“For the most part, he didn’t walk anybody,” Listach said. “That’s been his demise in the starts he didn’t go deep in — too many walks. So he didn’t walk any. He made them put the ball in play.”
The Rainiers (16-11) scored twice in the bottom of the first after Boog Powell led off with a single, then scored on Taylor’s double and an error by Salt Lake left fielder Kyle Kubitza. Designated hitter Mike Baxter later drove in Taylor with a sharp single to give Tacoma a 2-1 lead.
Taylor, Efren Navarro and Romero each singled to start the third inning to put the Rainiers ahead 3-1, they scored another run on Powell’s RBI single with two outs in the sixth, and added one more on Ed Lucas’ one-out, RBI double in the seventh.
Salt Lake added its final run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Jonathan Aro pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.
“That team over there is a really good team,” Listach said. “To come in and win four games against them is pretty good. What we did was pitch to their weaknesses. And we executed it. That’s why they didn’t score many runs in this series. That’s a good offensive club.”
Tacoma begins an eight-game road trip on Friday with the first of four games against the Albuquerque Isotopes. Left-hander James Paxton (3-2, 3.42 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Rainiers, and the Isotopes are set to send right-hander Jeff Hoffman (2-0, 1.52) to the mound. The game can be heard on 850-AM.