Rob Brantly knew what he signed on for.
When he accepted his assignment to Triple-A Tacoma out of spring training, he knew he would be the clear backup catcher behind Mike Zunino.
The Mariners’ organization wants Zunino to get as much reasonable work as possible — up to six starts a week.
So not much playing time for the lefty-swinger. But when his number has been called, he’s been ready.
The Rainiers found late-inning magic again on Tuesday, getting a two-run single from Brantly in the eighth inning to rally Tacoma to a 7-5 victory over Omaha at Cheney Stadium.
Brantly also socked a two-run home run in the third inning — his fourth home run in 67 at-bats this season, which are the second-fewest on the team.
“Obviously (Zunino) is the guy, and Brantly understands that,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “The guy is always ready. He has a routine he is strict with … and he swings the bat.
“If he can reach it and it is a good pitch, he’s going to make a good pass at it.”
Brantly said he’s had to adjust to the reduced playing time, but added he follows a daily routine with Rainiers hitting coach Scott Brosius to stay sharp.
“Me and him go in the cage, and we are pretty crazy in getting our routine, and getting locked in,” Brantly said. “It has been working.”
Brantly’s two-run blast over the right-field wall gave Tacoma a 2-0 lead.
After Omaha tied it, Mike Baxter drilled a two-run shot in the fourth inning to give the Rainiers a 4-2 lead. It was his third home run in the past two games.
But the Storm Chasers took a 5-4 lead in the eighth on Chris Taylor’s two-out error on a grounder up the middle.
Three of the first four Rainiers got on base in the eighth — the last on an intentional walk to Luis Sardinas.
Omaha wanted to get Ed Lucas up to the plate. He had been hitting just .193 since his 11-game hitting streak ended April 20.
The move backfired — Lucas rifled an RBI single to center field to tie the game at 5-5.
“I have to admit, that knock Eddie got was the catalyst for my at-bat,” Brantly said. “It got me juiced.”
Brantly had faced reliever Clayton Mortensen earlier in the season. The reliever blew a fastball by him.
Before following Lucas, Brantly said Brosius gave him some advice.
“He said, ‘Hey man, scale back to 80 percent (on swing speed), and do it with loose hands,’ ” Brantly said. “We went in there and got it done.”
Brantly’s soft line driver on a 1-2 pitch was the game-winning hit — and the play needed for the Rainiers to win a series from Omaha for the first time since 2008.
For the first time this season, Listach was sent to the clubhouse early.
After Boog Powell struck out to end the eighth inning, the center fielder apparently commented on home-plate umpire Travis Eggert’s strike zone. The final pitch appeared low and outside.
Trying to keep his hitter from being ejected, Listach walked in from the third-base line where he was coaching.
“(Eggert) told me not to come any closer to him, and I said ‘I was trying to keep my player away from you so he can stay in the game with a ninth-inning lead,’” Listach said. “He again said don’t come any closer … and I said, ‘Don’t tell me where to go.’ ”
Listach got the heave-ho — but not before he got his money’s worth with Eggert.
Adrian Sampson, the Rainiers’ starting pitcher Tuesday, now has a 1.04 home ERA. It was the fifth consecutive start Sampson has gone at least six innings. … Blake Parker notched his eighth save in a clean ninth inning. He is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead. … During the game, it was announced that right-hander Mayckol Guaipe had been optioned back down to Tacoma from the Mariners. To make room on the roster, the Rainiers released Lucas. … Powell (hand) returned after a four-game absence. He did pinch run in the 7-5 win Monday night. … Listach said the team will hold no workouts on its off day Wednesday.
After the off day, the Rainiers begin a four-game series with Iowa starting Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Donn Roach (2-2, 7.39 ERA) goes against his old club for Tacoma. Ryan Williams (3-1, 3.49) pitches for the Cubs. All action can be heard on 850-AM.