Rainiers manager Pat Listach stressed pitching as the key to continue the momentum from Friday’s victory, but Tacoma broke out the big bats Saturday.
The Rainiers had 16 hits — four coming from D.J. Peterson, who was 4 of 5 with four RBIs — and defeated the Las Vegas 51s, 9-2, at Cheney Stadium.
With the score tied 1-1 in the third inning, Tacoma went on a five-run outburst. Stefen Romero hit a two-run double, and Peterson had a two-run triple. Peterson scored on a sacrifice fly from Luis Sardinas.
The Rainiers added single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
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Tacoma starter Donn Roach went five innings, yielding two runs and five hits while striking out four.
Relievers Andrew Kittredge and Kraig Sitton combined for four scoreless innings. Kittredge finished with four strikeouts over three innings, and Sitton added a strikeout in the ninth.
Meanwhile, Mariners assistant GM Jeff Kingston was in Tacoma to watch left-handed catcher Rob Brantly on Friday. Brantly had returned from a five-day paternity leave to start against Las Vegas.
When the Mariners recalled Tacoma catcher Mike Zunino on Thursday, Brantly was at home in Southern California with his newborn daughter.
Had Brantly not been absent from the team, “there’s probably a chance he gets called up,” Listach said Friday.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to be that Zunino stays up there,” Listach continued. “Could be a number of guys. (Jesus) Sucre’s getting back to being healthy. … Zunino, obviously we’ve seen what he’s done down here. Brantly poses another left-handed bat, but it could be any one of those guys.”
Brantly, who is hitting .325 with four homers and 22 RBIs, said that when he saw that Seattle catcher Steve Clevenger had suffered a broken hand, and knew a spot opened up, the prospect of being called up “was a thought.”
“I called to touch base, and let them know I was there if that’s the way they wanted to go,” Brantly said. “They wanted to go with (Zunino), of course, he’s having a great season and everything. There are still some things I need to work on.”
Zunino made his first major league start of the season for Seattle on Saturday, and hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat in the second inning, and a solo homer in the sixth.
Sucre, who is on rehab assignment, started at catcher in Tacoma on Saturday.
The room for improvement comes at the plate, not behind it, Brantly said.
“I’ve been hitting the ball well when I’m swinging at the pitches I know I can handle,” he said. “But on the other at-bats, I’m kind of chasing and hitting the pitcher’s pitch and not doing what I can do. Once I zero that in, that’s going to give me a better chance when an opportunity comes to get called up at that time.”
Shortly after making a one-inning appearance in the ninth inning Friday, catcher Steve Baron was transferred back to Double-A Jackson.
Right-hander Guido Knudson signed a minor league contract and was added to the Tacoma roster Saturday. Knudson made 19 relief appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis (Pittsburgh affiliate), where he went 1-2 with a 3.08 ERA before he was released June 17.
Right-hander Jarrett Grube has been battling blisters and is questionable for his next start, which was scheduled to be July 5. The issue appears to be short term.
When asked if Grube would make his next start, Listach said, “I seriously doubt it. We haven’t ruled it out yet, but I doubt it. It’s up in the air. I don’t think (he’ll go onto the disabled list). It could be a start getting pushed back a couple of days, but he’s OK. He felt like he’ll be OK.”
Grube is the third injured pitcher in the Rainiers starting rotation after Jonathan Aro (elbow) and Brad Mills (shoulder) were placed on the disabled list Friday.
The Rainiers will start right-hander Joe Wieland (6-4, 6.89 ERA) against Las Vegas right-hander Gabriel Ynoa (9-3, 7.04) at 7:05 p.m. Sunday. The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.