Not only can Rainiers’ designated hitter Jesus Montero hit homers on a consistent basis, but he also sets them up.
With Tacoma trailing by three runs in the sixth inning to Las Vegas on Monday night, Montero’s leadoff double helped lift the Rainiers from their offensive dull. The Rainiers turned around to score eight runs over the next two innings, highlighted by Ty Kelly and Humberto Quintero’s home runs, and won 11-8.
“I was trying to hit the ball hard because I knew (John Church) would want to throw a fastball,” Montero said. “The first two at bats they were throwing me offspeed. I went into that fastball right away and it was good.”
Montero also had a homer of his own in the first inning, with one on and two out. He finished the night 2-for-4.
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“(Montero) was ready for him; he got in the batter’s box ready to hit and knew that he might do that and he did,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said.
Rainiers’ right-handed pitcher Todd Coffey’s relief effort in the eighth and ninth innings also proved crucial down the stretch.
Tacoma managed only two hits in three innings after jumping out to a 3-1 lead in the second inning.
Following Montero’s double and a single by Ji-Man Choi, Kelly blasted a three-run shot over the right field wall. Xavier Avery kept momentum rolling with a double to score Leury Bonilla, then Avery scored on a wild pitch to give the Rainiers an 8-6 lead.
Rainiers’ right-handed reliever Logan Kensing allowed Las Vegas to answer with a two-run homer of its own in the seventh.
Kelly added another crucial at-bat in the bottom of the seventh when his go-ahead sacrifice fly scored Nick Franklin. With Choi on base, Quintero hammered a two-run homer to left field to add some insurance.
Rainiers’ starting left-hander James Gillheeney kept the 51s at bay by yielding only one run and three hits through three innings.
That wall collapsed in the fourth, however, when he allowed four hits and five runs, three of which were earned.
The Rainiers finished the night with 12 hits. Five Tacoma players turned in multi-hit games, while Kelly finished 1-for-2 with four RBIs.
Montero’s consistency is noteworthy after his fifth multi-hit game in 10 games. He’s also hit four homers in seven games and has raised his batting average from .267 to .313 during that span.
It just so happens the Mariners are on the hunt for a right-handed hitter.
And Montero has proven, at least against PCL pitching, that his bat equals offense.
The Rainiers continue their 10-game homestand against Las Vegas in a doubleheader at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday night. Both games are scheduled for seven innings. Tacoma left-handed pitcher James Paxton (0-0, 6.00 ERA) is scheduled to start against right-handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard in Game 1, while right-hander Forrest Snow (1-2, 2.21 ERA) will start Game 2 for the Rainiers while the 51s starter is to be determined. Syndergaard is one of the Mets’ top prospects. The game can be heard on 850-AM.