Three days into a surprising late-season demotion to Triple-A Tacoma, Mike Zunino isn’t pouting.
Instead, he’s hitting.
Zunino went 4 for 4 with two home runs in the Rainiers’ 6-5 loss to the Salt Lake Bees on Monday night.
He was batting .174 in 112 games for Seattle when he was optioned to Tacoma on Friday.
“Great night for Mike,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “I don’t think there is any pressure playing here, and he knows he’s going to get at-bats.”
Zunino is 7 for 12 with three homers in his first three games for Tacoma.
“I told him that he’s not going to catch much, we’re going to get him at-bats as the designated hitter,” Listach said. “He only has to worry about one thing, his offense, which is the key to getting him back to the big leagues.”
Despite Zunino’s big game, the Rainiers could not get a win against their unexpected nemesis. Salt Lake has a PCL-worst record of 55-82, yet the Bees have gone 9-4 against Tacoma this season.
The Rainiers took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Jabari Blash pulled a towering three-run homer down the left-field line, and Zunino followed with a drive onto the berm beyond the left-field fence. It was the second time in as many games that Blash and Zunino have hit back-to-back homers.
Blash continued his torrid pace at the plate. He’s hit three homers in his last two games, 10 in his last 16 games, and 20 in 44 games since the All-Star break. He leads the Mariners organization with 32 home runs: 22 for Tacoma, and 10 for Double-A Jackson.
Mike Montgomery started for Tacoma and pitched into the seventh inning, leaving the game with a runner on base and a 4-3 lead.
Logan Bawcom came in from the bullpen and couldn’t hold on to the lead, allowing a single to Angel Rosa and a go-ahead two-run double to Gary Brown.
Current Mariners first baseman Jesus Montero was voted by league managers and media as the first baseman on the postseason all-PCL team. During his time with Tacoma, Montero batted .346 with 16 home runs and 75 RBIs. He has the league’s second-best batting average while ranking fourth in slugging (.551). Montero is the first Tacoma player selected to the all-PCL team since catcher Rob Johnson in 2008.
In Tuesday’s game, Tacoma’s Tyler Olson (2-4, 5.19 ERA) makes the start against Salt Lake’s Nate Smith (1-3, 5.68). First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. (PDT).
Mike Curto is the Tacoma Rainiers radio broadcaster.