It took a few starts, but Jordan Pries and the rest of the Tacoma Rainiers’ starting rotation is starting to jell.
Pries delivered his finest outing of the season Tuesday night in Salt Lake City, needing just 80 pitches to get through seven innings and earn the win in Tacoma’s 5-2 victory over the Bees.
Pries (2-2) allowed two runs (one earned) and just five hits. He walked one and struck out five, and his manager nearly sent him out to the mound for more work.
“We needed him to have a good start,” said Rainiers manager Pat Listach. “He would have gone back out for another inning if the top of the eighth hadn’t taken too long — and it was raining too, so we took him out.”
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After a pair of singles opened the bottom of the fourth, Pries retired 12 of the next 13 batters and coasted through the seventh.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes down in the zone,” Pries said. “I was trying to stay down in the zone and get early contact.”
Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez provided an early punch, delivering a pair of home runs against Salt Lake starter Drew Rucinski.
Gutierrez lined a full-count slider over the fence in left-center for a two-run homer in the second inning.
Then leading off the fourth, Gutierrez pulled a fastball high and deep down the left field line, clearing the fence by a wide margin. The baseball bounced off a concrete sidewalk that sits atop the left field seating berm at Smith’s Ballpark.
“It went a long way,” Listach said. “I don’t know how far it went, but it should have been worth more than one run.”
The win was the fifth in the last six games for Tacoma, which continues to show progress after a rough start to the season. Tacoma improved to 12-14 on the year.
Improved starting pitching has been a big reason, and not just from Pries. Mike Montgomery, Sam Gaviglio and Justin Germano have each delivered strong starts their last time through the rotation.
“We’re getting into the flow of the season,” Pries said. “We’re kind of rolling a little bit, we’ve put together some good starts and we’re getting into the flow of the year.”
Starting pitcher Mike Kickham was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers and will report to Triple-A Round Rock. He was scheduled to start Friday’s game in Fresno, so the Rainiers will need a new starting pitcher by then.
Tacoma’s Justin Germano (1-1, 0.90 ERA) makes the start at 5:35 p.m. PDT on Wednesday night. Salt Lake is scheduled to start highly regarded prospect Andrew Heaney (3-0, 4.62 ERA).