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Lobaton’s two homers push Rainiers past Aviators in series closer

Get to know the Tacoma Rainiers

The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. They play at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
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The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. They play at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.

On Thursday night at Cheney Stadium, it was all about Jose Lobaton as the Rainiers’ catcher blasted two 3-run home runs over the left field wall to pace Tacoma past Las Vegas, 9-3.

His first homer came in the third, and after two scoreless innings. After a single by John Andreoli and an ensuing walk, Tim Lopes scored both on double hit deep toward left field. Then, it was Lobaton’s first home run after a Jaycob Brugman walk that pushed the lead to five through the first three innings.

His second came in the seventh, where the Aviators had clawed their way back from a six-run deficit and trimmed it to just three.

But it was Lobaton, again, who went yard on a 3-run homer to left field which put the Rainiers up by six, again. Lobaton’s two home runs now tie him for the season lead for homers with Kristopher Negron, who was called up to Seattle this week.

“When you get six of your runs on two swings of the bat, that usually puts you in a pretty good spot,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said. “Good game for Lobi, which is good to see. He’s kind of scuffled for most of the year trying to get things turned around so that was good to see from him today.”

The Rainiers got another good day on the mound for its pitching staff, after Anthony Misiewicz went five innings allowing three runs, the Tacoma bullpen allowed just one hit in the final four innings and no runs.

Misiewicz only earned runs came off the bat of Mark Payton, who shot a 3-run homer in the fifth to pull the lead to just three.

Between Misiewicz and a Rainiers’ bullpen consisting of Brandon Brennan, Gerson Bautista, and David McKay, they combined to strike out 12, gave up just six hits, and only walked two.

“That’s always a key for us,” Brown said of limiting their walks. “We made them earn what they got tonight. I thought everybody did a nice job on the mound.”

The Rainiers finish the series with a split, 2-2, against Las Vegas, and will start a new series against the Sacramento River Cats on Friday at Cheney Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Just like old times for Rainiers pitcher Bautista and catcher Lobaton

Just 15 months ago, Gerson Bautista made his major league debut with the New York Mets.

The hard-throwing prospect was 22 at the time, and closed the game for the Mets on that April night with an one-inning shutout performance. His catcher in that game was Jose Lobaton, the Tacoma Rainiers current catcher who signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners in December.

Now the two are in Tacoma thanks to the blockbuster Robinson Cano deal that sent Bautista to Seattle.

“I texted him as soon as he got traded and told him, ‘I’m here, so at least you know somebody,’” Lobaton said before Friday’s game against Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium. “Sometimes you get here and it’s hard when you don’t know anybody.”

Where Lobaton has been with the Rainiers since spring training, Bautista has been up and down the organization ladder several times this season, even making a seven-day stint with the Mariners in June.

It wasn’t a long stretch, or the most productive. Bautista, now 24, gave up eight earned runs in seven innings. He was sent down to Tacoma on June 23, and had a couple of rough outings out of the gate.

“He’s had some struggles on the field a little bit but it’s something we’re trying to work through a bit,” Rainiers pitching coach Lance Painter said. “There was some mechanical things we had to work on, and any time you go through that it’s a bit of a battle trying to take it across the white lines.”

Bautista’s starting to get back on track, at least according to Painter and Lobaton.

“Last year his slider was a little different,” Lobaton said. “You didn’t really know what to expect, it was like, good one, bad one, good one, bad one. He’s been more consistent with his slider this year. I’ve only seen him here for a month, but what I’m seeing is that he’s trying to get that slider better so he can have that second pitch.

“A guy that can throw hard like him, with another pitch, is going to be a good guy in the future.”

In his last performance, Bautista threw 1.2 innings, allowing just one hit, a home run, while striking out three. Outside of the homer, his performance was enough to appease Painter, at least for now.

“His last time out he threw well,” Painter said. “That’s the start, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re just looking for consistency. There’s nothing wrong with the stuff, it’s just about repeatability and the strike-zone.”

Painter has seen guys go up and come back down plenty, and says that sometimes that can really affect a player. But Bautista has handled it well, according to the pitching coach.

“Some guys are let down by the fact that they’re back here versus back in Seattle,” Painter said. “You can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you have a poor attitude or are asking, ‘Why am I here?’ You’re here to work. We’ve had several guys go up and come back down, but Gerson has been positive, he’s been making the adjustments.”

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