The most familiar Chihuahua turned out to be the most dangerous of them all in the Tacoma Rainiers season opener Thursday night.
El Paso Chihuahuas center fielder Abraham Almonte went 5 for 5 in the leadoff spot, part of an 18-hit attack in an 11-4 win over the Rainiers, his former team.
Almonte played for Tacoma in 2013 and 2014, and had a month-long stint as the Seattle Mariners’ leadoff hitter last season. The Mariners traded him to San Diego for Chris Denorfia in July.
Almonte singled and scored in the bottom of the first inning as El Paso rallied for two runs against Tacoma starter Jordan Pries.
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He drove in the tying run in the bottom of the fifth inning, part of a five-run rally that saw El Paso take control of the game. He added two more hits in the late innings as El Paso tacked on runs, putting the game out of reach.
“We’ll have to see if we can leave here with Almonte getting just five hits in the series,” said new Tacoma manager Pat Listach after his first game with the team. “Today was one of those days where everything he hit fell in.”
Down 2-0 early, Tacoma claimed the lead with a four-run rally in the third inning.
Third baseman Carlos Rivero opened the frame by pulling a long home run to left field off El Paso starter Jason Lane.
Ketel Marte hit a one-out single, and James Jones tied the game by pulling a triple down the right-field line. ‘
Stefen Romero singled over the drawn-in infield, scoring Jones to give Tacoma a 3-2 lead. Singles by Jesus Montero and Franklin Gutierrez loaded the bases for John Hicks, who drove in the fourth run with a ground out.
It appeared that the 4-2 lead might hold up for a while. Pries faced just three batters in each of the second and third innings, getting big help from catcher Hicks, who threw out two attempted base stealers.
“That’s the best I’ve seen Hicks throw,” Listach said. “In spring training he didn’t throw the ball like that. Both those throws were really impressive.”
But Pries allowed a solo home run to Cody Decker in the fourth to make it 4-3, and then El Paso rallied for five runs in the fifth.
After Almonte tied the score with an RBI single, Pries was lifted in favor of left-hander Lucas Luetge.
Tommy Medica pulled a grounder of the glove off a diving Rivero at third base, bringing in a pair of runs to give El Paso a 6-4 lead. Brett Wallace followed by hitting the next pitch to straightaway center for a two-run homer.
“Luetge got the first guy out like we wanted, but the next guy got a two-strike base hit and then Wallace hit the big home run,” Listach said. “That kind of killed the momentum a little bit.”
Pries was the Mariners’ minor league co-pitcher of the year last year, but he was charged with six runs on nine hits in four innings Thursday and took the loss.
Shortstop Chris Taylor (wrist) participated in all pregame workouts Thursday, including batting practice and fielding drills. Currently on the Mariners’ disabled list, Taylor said he hopes to be cleared to start a rehabilitation assignment this weekend. … The remainder of the Tacoma starting rotation is Roenis Elias on Friday, Sam Gaviglio on Saturday, Mike Kickham on Sunday and Mike Montgomery on Monday.
Tacoma sends left-hander Elias to the mound for the second game of the season at 6:05 p.m. (PDT) Friday. El Paso is scheduled to start right-hander Aaron Northcraft.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers