Tacoma Rainiers

Eight Tacoma pitchers combine to cap off sweep of Iowa

Catcher Mike Marjama falls over making a catch in the fifth inning. The Seattle Mariners played the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game on Opening Day at Safeco Field in Seattle, Wash., on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Catcher Mike Marjama falls over making a catch in the fifth inning. The Seattle Mariners played the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game on Opening Day at Safeco Field in Seattle, Wash., on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

The Tacoma Rainiers rode a four-spot in the bottom of the eighth inning to a 5-3 victory over the Iowa Cubs Tuesday evening to cap off their first four-game series sweep of the season.

“It’s great to come out and put up runs,” shortstop Zach Vincej said. “Our pitching staff has been unbelievable. It’s easy to play defense behind those guys, because they’re keeping us in the game. If we can string a few runs together here and there, we have a good chance with our pitching staff.”

The win puts the Rainiers (38-34) four games over .500 for the first time this season.

“We’ve been playing well,” acting manager David Berg said after the game. “Guys are grinding out at-bats. That’s usually what happens when you’ve got a little streak going. The guys are confident. We went down, and the guys kept battling. The guys are having fun right now, (they’re) playing hard, they’re pulling for each other.”

A walk and two singles loaded the bases for Zach Vincej with one out, and the Tacoma shortstop pulled out his pitching wedge, chipping a high and outside offering a mile high to right field. The ball sliced away from Iowa’s Lane Adams, who never completely got under it, bouncing off his glove and out of play to plate two on a ground-rule double.

Danny Muno followed that with a double over first base to bring two more home and give the Rainiers the 5-3 lead.

Tacoma’s bullpen had been lights-out holding leads this entire homestand, but Tuesday, the pen was called on to see the game all the way through, and the Rainiers relief spread the work and wealth. Of the nine relievers on the Tacoma roster, only Tucker Healy got the day off.

“We were missing a starter, so we just went full-staff day,” Tyler Higgins said. “It was good.”

Mike Morin made his third career start, kicking off a long line of relievers that, with one blemish, kept the I-Cubs off balance all night long.

David Bote gave the I-Cubs the lead in the top of the sixth, going the opposite way with a three-run home run off of Matt Tenuta to make it 3-1. Two of the runs were charged to Ashton Goudeau, who allowed a pair of singles before being pulled.

Morin, Anthony McIver, Darin Gillies, Higgins, and Shawn Armstrong all had scoreless outings. Armstrong struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save of the season.

Tacoma has the day off tomorrow and will begin a four-game road series at Salt Lake on Thursday.

Marjama to DL

Mike Marjama was placed on the seven-day disabled list and into concussion protocol after taking a foul tip to the mask in Monday’s win over Iowa.

Mariners reliever Shawn Armstrong struck out the first two Iowa batters on six pitches in the top of the ninth and jumped out to an 0-1 count on Bijan Rademacher. Rademacher tipped Armstrong’s next offering — a fastball low and over the plate — up under Marjama’s mask, hitting the Tacoma catcher square in the jaw.

Garrett Kennedy came in for one pitch — Armstrong lost the immaculate inning on a flyout by Rademacher to end the game — and started Tuesday's game at Cheney Stadium.

“It’s tough to see that go down,” Kennedy said. “You never want to wish that upon anybody. But he’s a strong guy, and we’ll be good as a team to back him up and wish him a good recovery.”

Kennedy, who spent the first three years of his career in the Dodgers organization, was the Rainiers’ Opening Day catcher, before being sent down to high Single-A Modesto on April 20. He was came back to Tacoma on June 5 after making 18 appearances for the Nuts. Tuesday was his 10th start for the Rainiers; he has a triple slash line of .176/.222/.324.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to play the game, and hopefully give the team the best chance to win the ballgame tonight,” Kennedy said.

David Freitas, who was optioned to Tacoma on Saturday, will join the team in Salt Lake for the Rainiers ' four-game series against the Bees, which starts Thursday.

Emergency call-up

With Freitas unavailable until the road trip, Troy Dixon was called up as an emergency backup from Everett, which just started its season last Friday. Dixon has one start for the Aquasox, going 1-for-4 with an RBI double. He threw out one of two would-be base stealers.

Dixon, a 20th-round pick out of St. John’s in 2017, started 16 games behind the plate last season in Everett, and hit .196 in 97 at-bats.