The Tacoma Rainiers have had terrific relief pitching this season, but it was the Salt Lake Bees’ bullpen that shined on Tuesday night.
Salt Lake relievers Chris O’Grady and Javy Guerra combined to pitch four scoreless innings, and the Bees made a comeback against the Tacoma bullpen to secure a 9-4 win.
Tacoma took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning stretch.
In his first plate appearance as a visiting player in the city he called home for the past five seasons, Efren Navarro pulled a two-run homer to right field in the second inning. He hit the first pitch he saw from Bees starter Blayne Weller onto the berm.
Tacoma catcher Mike Zunino added a two-run single in the top of fifth, raising his team-leading RBI total to 43.
Rainiers starting pitcher Donn Roach held Salt Lake to one run over the first six innings before taking the mound to begin the seventh.
Salt Lake rallied with a series of singles. Sherman Johnson, Ryan Jackson and Juan Graterol singled to chase Roach with one out and Tacoma still leading 4-2.
Kraig Sitton came in from the bullpen to face Quintin Berry, and was greeted with an RBI single on his first pitch.
With Graterol at third and Berry at first, Sitton got to a 2-2 count on Daniel Nava. He struck out Nava swinging, but Salt Lake successfully executed a delayed double steal on the pitch. Berry stole second, and when Zunino tried to throw him out, Graterol broke for home plate and beat the relay throw from Luis Sardinas to score the tying run.
Rafael Ortega followed with a single to bring home Berry, and Salt Lake had a 5-4 lead.
“Our defense let us down a bit,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach. “We made some mistakes, we made some errors, we gave up a couple of two-strike hits, and then late in the game we walked a couple of guys.”
The Bees scored four more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning against Rainiers reliever Jake Brentz, who was wild in his second Triple-A outing. Brentz walked two, threw a wild pitch, and hit a batter as the Bees drove in four runs on just two hits.
“Roach pitched really well, and put us in a position to win the game,” Listach said. “We didn’t get it done.”
Tacoma plans to use a six-man starting rotation for at least one turn. Cody Martin starts Wednesday, followed by Brad Mills, Joe Wieland, Jarrett Grube, Adrian Sampson and Roach. ... Stefen Romero’s double on Monday was the 77th of his career with Tacoma, ranking sixth on the all-time franchise list. He’ll tie Danny Goodwin (1982-85) for fifth with his next two-bagger.
Cody Martin (5-3, 5.12 ERA) starts for Tacoma in the third game of the series at 6:05 p.m. (PDT) Wednesday against Bees left-hander Nate Smith (3-2, 4.62).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.