If anyone was wondering if the addition of Seattle Mariners’ Nori Aoki would help the Tacoma Rainiers, the question was answered in his first at-bat with his new team.
Aoki reported to the Rainiers on Monday and was immediately slotted into the leadoff spot by manager Pat Listach. Opening the game in Fresno, Aoki had a 16-pitch at-bat against Grizzlies starter Brad Peacock. It ended with an opposite-field double.
The long at-bat led to a 39-pitch first inning for Peacock, who could only get through three innings due to a high pitch count. The Rainiers rallied in the late innings against the Fresno bullpen and won the game, 6-2.
Aoki finished the day going 2-for-4 with a walk.
“It set the tone for the game, said Listach. “For a pitcher to throw that many pitches and not get an out really runs up the pitch count quickly. We got into their bullpen and finally got some runs.”
The score was tied 2-2 when the Rainiers rallied against Fresno reliever Kevin Chapman in the eighth inning.
Chapman had already pitched two perfect innings when Efren Navarro greeted him with a line drive single in the eighth. Patrick Kivlehan pulled a hard double into the left field corner, and runners were at second and third for Luis Sardinas.
Sardinas bounced a single through the drawn-in infield to drive in two runs and give the Rainiers a 4-2 lead. Later in the inning, Sardinas scored on a base hit by Zach Shank.
The Rainiers added an insurance run in the ninth on another RBI single by Sardinas, who finished the game 3-for-5.
Joe Wieland started for Tacoma, striking out seven batters over five innings. He left the game with the score tied, 2-2.
Steve Johnson (3-0) earned the win with two shutout innings of relief, and Casey Coleman picked up his fourth save by allowing no runs in the eighth and ninth innings.
Catcher Jesus Sucre joined the team on an injury rehabilitation assignment, going 0-for-3 while catching the first seven innings. Sucre is recovering from a broken right fibula suffered on Jan. 17 while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. ... Tacoma clinched its first winning road trip of the season, going 5-2 with one game remaining.
The road trip concludes with a 7:05 game on Tuesday with the Rainiers starting Zach Lee (0-0, 7.50 ERA) against Fresno’s Cesar Valdez (4-1, 3.71).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers