The Rainiers’ offense sprung into life on Thursday afternoon, and it turned out that the team needed it.
Tacoma banged out 16 hits — including two home runs — and scored a dozen runs to outslug the Salt Lake Bees, 12-7.
“We’ve been inconsistent scoring runs, and finally today we had some big hits,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said.
The win gave Tacoma a split of the four-game series, and it assured the Rainiers that they would remain alone in first place in the Pacific North division. Tacoma entered the day with a one-game lead over second-place Reno.
Tacoma scored an unearned run in the first inning, then made it 2-0 when Daniel Robertson homered to left field against Bees starter Kyle McGowin in the second inning. When Patrick Kivlehan hit a two-out, two-run single to center in the fourth, the Rainiers had a 4-0 lead.
“One of the biggest hits of the game was Kivlehan’s two-out, two-run single,” Listach said. “That was huge.”
Salt Lake made sure the Rainiers never felt safe with that lead. The Bees scored twice in the bottom of the fourth and loaded the bases before Tacoma starter Brad Mills escaped the inning.
Mike Baxter hit a two-run double as part of a four-run rally for Tacoma in the top of the fifth, making it 8-2, but still the Bees wouldn’t go away.
Salt Lake scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings and threatened to add more in each frame.
Finally, Tacoma scored four more runs in the seventh inning. Mike Zunino homered to left-center — his 14th homer of the season — and Chris Taylor’s two-out, two-run single made it 12-4.
Even then, Salt Lake answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to stay in striking distance. Tacoma reliever Casey Coleman, who was nicked for a run in the seventh, pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory.
“It was one of those games where you never feel safe until the 27th out is made,” Listach said. “Great job down the stretch by Coleman.”
Kirkland native Cal Towey went 4 for 12 in the series for Salt Lake. The 2009 graduate of Eastside Catholic High School was recently promoted to Triple-A for his first time. … Playing his first games as a visitor at Smith’s Ballpark after five years as a member of the Salt Lake Bees, Tacoma’s Efren Navarro went 6 for 13 in the series.
The Rainiers return home to host the defending PCL champion Fresno Grizzlies in a four-game series, beginning with Friday night’s 7:05 game. Tacoma starts Joe Wieland (4-4, 8.29 ERA) against Fresno’s Joe Musgrove (2-2, 4.34).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.