Justin Smoak continued his torrid streak at the plate, but the Tacoma Rainiers lost to the Salt Lake Bees, 10-4, on Wednesday night.
Smoak homered twice, including a tape-measure blast to right field, and drove in three of Tacoma’s four runs. The switch-hitter is 8-for-15 with seven RBIs over the first three games of the series.
Both home runs came from the left side of the plate against Salt Lake starter Caleb Clay.
Smoak pulled a fastball for a mammoth two-run blast in the first inning. The high-arching drive landed on the far side of the berm behind the right-field fence, almost leaving stadium property.
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His second homer went to left-center, a shot that just cleared the fence in the sixth.
“The second one felt better to me than the first one because I was finally able to stay on a pitch away and drive it to the opposite field,” Smoak said. “That’s something I’m trying to do more of.”
When batting left-handed, Smoak faces a defensive shift. Salt Lake plays three infielders on the right side of second base, with the second baseman playing shallow right field. The third baseman stands just to the left of second, opening up the entire left side of the infield.
Smoak says trying to beat the shift isn’t a big part of his plan.
“A little bit, but it’s more just being ready to hit, looking for balls out over the plate and not trying to be too quick,” Smoak said.
Smoak’s big game was one of the few highlights for Tacoma.
Salt Lake scored eight early runs and knocked out Tacoma starter Andrew Carraway with one out in the third inning.
Luis Jimenez hit a go-ahead, two-run homer to cap a four-run rally in the bottom of the first inning, and the Bees had three consecutive two-out RBI hits in the second inning.
Forrest Snow and Stephen Kohlscheen pitched well in long relief, combining to last 5 2/3 innings and allow two runs. The duo effectively saved the rest of the Tacoma bullpen, which is down to six men after recent promotions.
The Rainiers are dealing with a pair of minor injuries. Nick Franklin is out because of a strained muscle in his side, and Ji-Man Choi jammed a finger trying to make a sliding catch. Both are day to day. … Tacoma is 3-3 on its trip with one game remaining.
Tacoma’s trip concludes with a 6:05 p.m. game Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Tacoma starts left-hander James Gillheeney (3-7, 5.83) against Salt Lake right-hander Jarrett Grube (6-3, 4.82). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.