Tacoma beat Sacramento on Thursday night, and it was one pitch from Rainiers reliever Jonathan Aro that changed the flow of the game.
Trailing for much of the contest, Tacoma’s Daniel Robertson hit a two-run single in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game, 5-5.
But Sacramento immediately threatened in the bottom of the inning, putting runners at the corners with one out.
That’s when Aro came in from the bullpen to face Ruben Tejada. In his first appearance since being optioned to Tacoma by the Mariners, Aro got Tejada to ground into an inning-ending double play. Tacoma then scored five runs over the final two innings, and the Rainiers had a 10-5 win.
Aro got another double play grounder in the eighth inning, and finished the game with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
“The two double plays he got were huge,” said Tacoma pitching coach Lance Painter. “For him to protect the rest of the bullpen and finish the game was outstanding.”
Patrick Kivlehan singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth against rehabilitating San Francisco Giants reliever Sergio Romo. Zach Shank followed with an RBI single, giving Tacoma a 7-5 lead.
Tacoma broke the game open in the top of the ninth, when Stefen Romero lifted a three-run homer to left-center off River Cats reliever Alex Torres.
Zach Lee started for Tacoma in his Mariners organization debut, four days after being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Chris Taylor.
Lee got off to a rough start, allowing four runs over the first two innings. But he settled down and made it through six innings, giving up five runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out three.
“He was a little rusty; he had six days off since he last pitched,” Painter said. “As the game went on he started throwing inside more. He ended up giving us a quality game.”
Tacoma had three more roster moves on Thursday. Outfielder Boog Powell was suspended 80 games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and pitcher Kyle Hunter was transferred to Double-A Jackson. The team is adding outfielder Guillermo Heredia from Jackson, where he hit .293 with a .405 on-base percentage in 58 games. Heredia reports to the Rainiers on Friday.
The series in Sacramento concludes with a 7:05 game on Friday night. Tacoma starts Jarrett Grube (0-0, 3.52 ERA) against Sacramento’s Joan Gregorio (1-4, 6.54).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers