Rainiers outfielder Stefen Romero’s two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the second inning may have seemed like a key play when it happened, but at the end of Tacoma’s game against Fresno, it was without a doubt the biggest.
The Rainiers beat the Grizzlies, 4-3, on Friday night at Cheney Stadium largely because of Romero’s deep fly to left-center field, which capped a four-run inning. Fresno battled back with a home run in the eighth inning, but Rainiers reliever Todd Coffey put the game away with his seventh save of the season.
“You take them how you take them and fortunately I had a big two-out hit that put us up by two,” Romero said. “If you look back on the game, if we didn’t put together that little rally in the second inning, we probably would have lost the game. (Forrest) Snow threw a heck of a game — we tip our hat to him.”
Romero is hitting .320 with three home runs and six RBIs since being optioned from Seattle on August 1.
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“He’s playing on a daily routine now and is starting to see the ball better,” Howell said. “That’s him — if he’s out there every day, he’s going to produce and hit the ball hard. He missed a couple balls that he was upset about. He’s getting closer — if (Romero) gets on those balls, then a lot of good things will happen.”
Michael Saunders made his second rehab start with Tacoma on Friday night while recovering from a strained left oblique that placed him on the Seattle Mariners disabled list on July 11. He once again batted as the Rainiers’ leadoff hitter and showed progression in returning by starting at right field after batting as the designated hitter on Aug. 7.
But, due to his tentative schedule, Saunders’ night only lasted six innings. He went 0-for-1 with one strikeout but drew three walks and scored a run on Romero’s double in the second. At right field, Saunders ended the third inning by catching a fly on the run.
“The bottom thing for (Saunders) right now is to see the baseball and the speed,” Howell said. “This game can’t simulate anywhere. Just for him to see the pitches, see movement, see different speeds. When you walk three times, that means you’re seeing the ball pretty well.”
Snow, a former University of Washington grad who started at pitcher on Color Cheney Crimson Night, also known as Washington State University Night, struck out eight, while yielding five hits and two earned runs after six innings pitched.
Tacoma’s four-run second inning started with a curving fly by Rainiers second baseman Ty Kelly.
Kelly finished with his fifth multihit night in 10 games, going 3-for-3 with one walk.
With two outs in the eighth, Rainiers right-handed reliever Logan Bawcom gave up a home run to Fresno outfielder Jarrett Parker, which cut Tacoma’s lead to 4-3.
Coffey threw one strikeout and forced two groundouts in the ninth to close out the game.
The Tacoma Rainiers will continue their five-game homestand against the Fresno Grizzlies on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. PDT. Left-handed pitcher James Gillheeney (3-9, 5.99 ERA) is scheduled to start for Tacoma against left-hander Mike Kickham (7-7, 3.67 ERA). The game can be heard on 850-AM.