FRESNO, Calif. — Perhaps some rest was exactly what Jesus Montero needed.
Relegated to the Tacoma bench due to simultaneous rehabilitation stints by Justin Smoak and Corey Hart, Montero had started just two games in two weeks since being optioned to Tacoma by Seattle.
Finally in the starting lineup on Friday night, Montero went 5-for-5 with six runs batted in as the Rainiers defeated Fresno, 11-7, in front of an Independence Day crowd of 11,988.
Montero singled in the first inning ahead of Stefen Romero’s three-run homer. He hit a two-run double in the second, giving the Rainiers a 6-2 lead.
He homered to center in the fifth with a man on right before Romero connected for a second time, making it back-to-back home runs and a 9-4 Tacoma lead.
Montero added run-scoring singles in the sixth and eighth innings, finishing off the first five-hit game of his professional career.
Much of the damage came against touted 22-year-old San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Edwin Escobar. Tacoma hit three homers and scored nine runs against Escobar before he was lifted with two outs in the fifth inning.
Tacoma won its second game in a row, improving to 41-46 on the season. It was the first of 16 meetings between the division rivals, who will play each other repeatedly over the final two months of the season.
Rainiers second baseman Nick Franklin walked twice but went 0-for-2 at the plate, ending his career-best hitting streak at 12 games.
Tacoma pitcher Chance Ruffin voluntarily retired after Thursday’s game at Cheney Stadium, returning home to his wife and newborn baby in Austin, Texas.
Ruffin, 25, was a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2010, signing for a bonus slightly over $1 million. He reached the majors with Detroit in 2011, then was traded to Seattle on July 30 along with Charlie Furbush and Casper Wells for Doug Fister.
Ruffin pitched in 22 games for the Mariners between 2011 and 2013, going 1-2 with a 5.70 ERA for Seattle. He appeared in 87 games for Tacoma over the past season, working as both a starter and a reliever. Ruffin was 3-3 with a 5.31 ERA in 22 appearances this year, including seven starts.
The Mariners placed Ruffin on the Voluntarily Retired List, and they retain his rights should he choose to play again.
The second game of the three-game series in Fresno is Saturday at 7:05 PDT. Tacoma starts James Gillheeney (3-6, 5.58 ERA) against Fresno’s Jose De Paula (1-3, 4.86).