SALT LAKE CITY — The Tacoma Rainiers wrapped up batting practice long before the first pitch against the Salt Lake Bees on Saturday evening.
But the way the visiting team opened the first inning of its 13-4 victory at Spring Mobile Ballpark, it seemed as if the training session had never really ended.
“I think we’re pressing a little bit,” said interim manager Bill Richardson, the manager of the Orem Owlz who filled in for Bees manager Keith Johnson while Johnson was away attending to family matters.
“When you start pressing a little bit, things start getting contagious the other way,” Richardson continued. “We made some mistakes on the hill and they hit them.”
The Rainiers caught the hitting bug early on. Tacoma used just four hits, including a two-RBI double by Alex Liddi and a three-RBI home run by Mike Zunino, and a base on balls to score five runs in the top of the first. The visitors then added back-to-back homers by Denny Almonte and Nate Tenbrink to lead off the second inning, and a third solo shot from Eric Thames to boost the early advantage to 8-1.
“It’s definitely Keith’s team,” Richardson said, adding that his leadership is a key component to the Bees’ daily activities. “These guys are pros. They’re going to figure it out, but it’s a testament to Keith’s leadership.”
The Rainiers scored in each of the first five innings to take complete control of the series opener. They totaled 21 hits, 10 of them for extra bases. The Bees had 10 hits and left nine runners stranded, looking completely lifeless for the majority of the contest.
The Bees scored one run in the first and sixth innings, and then added two more runs in the ninth to avoid the shutout. In the bottom of the first inning, Efren Navarro singled to center field to drive home Scott Cousins, who reached base with a single to right field and then stole second base.
Salt Lake second baseman Luis Rodriguez singled to right field and was eventually sent home on a Brad Hawpe single to center in the sixth.
In the ninth, Matt Young tripled to left to score Luke Carlin, who reached base with a walk, and then Cousins drove Young home with a ground out to first base.
Barry Enright started on the mound for the Bees and picked up the loss with 2 2/3 innings of work. Andrew Carraway earned the win for Tacoma, pitching six innings and striking out six batters.
“It’s a real treat,” Richardson said of filling in for the Bees. “I can take some lessons back to my level. The only regret I would have is I hope I didn’t put (the Bees) in a bad position to succeed.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org