RENO, NEV. - Dustin Ackley had a slow start to his professional career, struggling at Class AA West Tennessee for five weeks before heating up in mid-May and earning a promotion to Tacoma.
Apparently, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft doesn’t want to go through those struggles again.
Ackley homered on his first Triple-A swing, helping lead Tacoma to an 11-7 Pacific Coast League win over the Reno Aces at Aces Ballpark on Thursday.
Leading off the second inning, A ck l e y took the first pitch from Reno starter Cesar Valdez up and away for ball one. Ackley then unleashed a smooth, powerful swing at the second pitch, driving it deep over the fence in right-center for a home run and a 1-0 Tacoma lead.
Ackley became the first player to homer in his first at-bat as a member of the Rainiers since Vince Faison on August 7, 2004 in Oklahoma City.
Ackley drove in another run with a bases loaded infield grounder in the seventh inning, using his speed to avoid a double play. Ackley ended up going 1-for-5 with two RBI.
While Ackley was the new addition, the remainder of the Rainiers’ offense continued to click.
Matt Tuiasosopo ripped a bases-loaded double in the second inning, driving in a pair of runs.
Red-hot David Winfree had three hits, including a long, three-run homer to give the Rainiers a 10-3 lead in the seventh. Winfree has homered in four of his last five games.
And Greg Halman went 3-for-5, including his 20th home run of the season to straightaway center field in the ninth.
Ian Snell (3-1) earned the win, despite working up in the strike zone over five innings in one of the PCL’s infamous hitter’s parks. Snell allowed three runs on seven hits.
Tacoma manager Daren Brown used each of his new relievers with mixed results.
Anthony Varvaro threw a scoreless sixth inning in his Triple-A debut, allowing a two-out double and a walk.
Edward Paredes fared poorly, loading up the bases with no outs before allowing a no-doubt-about-it grand slam down the left-field line to Reno’s No. 9 hitter Pedro Ciriaco.
Levale Speigner cleaned up for Paredes, nailing down the final five outs for his ninth save. Speigner has allowed one earned run in his last 24 innings.
Tacoma has won 12 of its last 13 games and now has a nine-game lead in the division . Reno lost its ninth in a row.
Nearly one-quarter of the Rainiers’ roster was turned over during the All-Star break. Gone are starting pitcher Chris Seddon (promoted to Seattle), infielder Jeff Dominguez (disabled list – calf) relievers Mark Worrell (released), Billy Traber (released) and Mumba Rivera (disabled list – calf). Taking their spots are Ackley, and pitchers Luke Fench, Varvaro, Paredes and Sean White.
The series continues with a 7:05 game tonight. Tacoma is scheduled to start Ryan Feierabend (2-2, 5.05 ERA) against Reno’s Kevin Mulvey (3-6, 5.21).