Tacoma turned a pitcher's duel into a home run derby Thursday.
Greg Halman, Matt Mangini and David Winfree homered in the fifth inning, sparking a six-run rally and an 11-5 win against Albuquerque at Cheney Stadium. The score was tied 1-1 before Tacoma’s outburst. “We can slug it out,” Rainiers manager Jose Castro said. “But they’ve got some guys who can hit home runs, too. You just never know.”
In the fifth inning, Tacoma pounded Seth Etherton for seven straight hits, with Hal-man leading off with his 29th homer of the season. The Rainiers sent 10 batters to the plate, chasing Etherton and snapping his two-game win streak.
Halman homered for the second straight, one of four the Rainiers belted. Tacoma now has 153 home runs, second behind Las Vegas in the league. The Rainiers are on pace to top last year’s PCL-leading 166 homers.
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Strangely, the last time Tacoma hit three home runs in an inning was Aug. 19, 2009, a year ago to the date.
In the seventh inning, Tug Hulett, playing in his second game for the Rainiers after signing as a minor league free agent earlier this month, drilled a fastball over the blue right-field wall for a three-run homer and an 11-2 lead. He also doubled in the fifth.
Tacoma gave Blake Beavan all the support he needed as he scattered seven hits and two runs over seven innings. The 21-year-old lowered his ERA to 5.04.
“Blake threw the ball well,” Castro said. “I was pleased with his performance.”
Tacoma stretched its first-place lead to 1ß games on Salt Lake, an 8-7 loser at Memphis.
In the bottom of the first, Dustin Ackley led off with a double off the right-field wall, giving him nine doubles for the season. After Mangini lined out, first baseman Justin Smoak singled to score a hustling Ackley for a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, Albuquerque’s Jamie Hoffman lifted a lazy single into right field, breaking up Beavan’s shutout and scoring Russ Mitchell from second to tie the score 1-1.
Tacoma played error-free ball after committing 10 errors in its past three games, including back-to-back four-error games Monday and Tuesday. That gave the Rainiers a league-high 23 errors in August and 133 errors in 124 games.
“Errors happen,” Castro said. “The good thing is our pitchers concentrate on the next pitch.”
Albuquerque right-hander Charlie Haeger (2-1, 5.23) will start against Tacoma left-hander Mauricio Robles (0-0, 9.00). Haeger is a knuckleballer. Today’s 7 p.m. game will broadcast live on 850-AM, with Mike Curto doing the play-by-play.