After two bad endings at Las Vegas this weekend, the Tacoma Rainiers needed a good start Monday night.
They got it from two players — leadoff hitter Chris Taylor and starting pitcher Brad Mills.
Taylor started the game with a double down the left-field line, and scored when the following batter, Daniel Robertson, singled to left. Taylor, who was stealing third, drew 51s third baseman T.J. Rivera away from where Robertson’s hard-hit single went through the infield as he scored easily.
Meanwhile, Mills threw a masterful 5 2/3 innings, allowing just a fifth-inning solo homer to Nevin Ashley as the Rainiers used a 18-hit attack to defeat the 51s, 9-1, in front of 4,577 at a hot Cashman Field.
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“This was a nice win,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “We have a good team, and they have a good team. They’ve gotten the best of us so far. We could have easily won the first two games here and be up 3-0 in this series. Eighteen hits sets the tone.”
Taylor (4 for 4, two runs, two RBIs) reached base five times, including his RBI single to bring Tyler Smith home in the second inning and an RBI double in the eighth to score Zach Shank (4 for 5, a run, two RBIs).
“The ball flies well here,” said Shank, who played third base Monday and center field (hitting his first two homers of the season) on Sunday. “I had some good hits. I’m just trying to keep it simple.”
Mills (2-1) was in control throughout, striking out four in his fifth start this season. He allowed four singles and two walks on 94 pitches, 64 for strikes.
“What else sets the tone is our pitcher throwing up zeros,” said Listach, who pulled Mills slightly early because he was not feeling 100 percent. “To hold that team to one run is real good. (Mills) mixed it up real good. He kept them off balance. He didn’t have his best curveball, but his change-up and his fastball were good.”
Tacoma (34-23) built a 3-0 advantage by the second inning, as Boog Powell scored when Smith reached on a throwing error by shortstop Gavin Cecchini. The Rainiers extend it to 5-0 when Shank singled to left to score Efren Navarro in the fourth, and Tyler Smith’s homer to left to start the fifth. Smith’s second home run of the season came on the first pitch of the inning against 51s starter Duane Below (4-4), who went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and five runs on 107 pitches.
“Being up early keeps everyone relaxed,” Shank said. “It trickles down to the rest of the lineup.”
Tacoma added four runs in the eighth as Robertson (2 for 5, a run scored, 2 RBIs), Mike Zunino and Shank all had RBIs.
Kraig Sitton, Blake Parker and Jonathan Aro, who struck out the side in the eighth, threw scoreless relief for the Rainiers as the 51s fell to 30-27.
Las Vegas is in the middle of a heat wave. Game-time temperature Monday was 103 degrees. Tuesday’s high is expected to be 107 as the teams start the series finale at noon.
The Rainiers will send right-hander Adrian Sampson (6-3, 2.83 ERA) to the mound. The 51s counter with righty Gabriel Ynoa (6-1, 2.84). The game can be heard on 850-AM.