Rainiers begin home stand with two wins against Fresno

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Ian Miller mashed his fourth home run, provided five RBI, stole two bases and scored a pair of runs in a 4-for-5 effort on May 21 at Cheney Stadium as the Tacoma Rainiers erased a three-run hole to defeat the Fresno Grizzlies in the four-game series opener, 12-3.
Credit: Jeff Halstead

Ian Miller mashed his fourth home run, provided five RBI, stole two bases and scored a pair of runs in a 4-for-5 effort on May 21 at Cheney Stadium as the Tacoma Rainiers erased a three-run hole to defeat the Fresno Grizzlies in the four-game series opener, 12-3.

With Fresno leading, 3-0, and Braden Bishop at the plate, Miller stole second base in the bottom of the third. Later in the at-bat, Miller broke for third and the caught stealing attempt sailed into left field, allowing him to score Tacoma’s first run.

Austin Nola roped his first triple of the season in the same inning, scoring Kyle Seager and Ryan Court to tie the game at three apiece.

The Rainiers took their first lead in the fourth inning when Miller blasted his fourth home run over the right field wall, a two-run shot that also scored Chris Mariscal, who reached on his first career Triple-A hit.

Tacoma put the game out of reach with a three-run sixth inning, starting with an opposite field round-tripper from Jose Lobaton. Seager singled home Kristopher Negron in the inning for a five-run advantage.

Miller struck again in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run knock that plated Nola and Negron. The 27-year-old added his fifth RBI in the eighth on his fourth hit of the night. Since May 5 (15 games), the Philadelphia native is hitting at a .419 clip (26-for-62) with 15 RBI, 18 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 8 stolen bases, raising his batting average from .218 to .302.

Right-hander Erik Swanson made his Cheney Stadium debut in the victory, surrendering three runs across the first three frames. Ruben Alaniz (2-1) earned his second victory for his two shutout innings with a strikeout. Rehabbing righties Sam Tuivailala and Gerson Bautista each dealt scoreless innings in their Rainiers debuts. Matt Festa closed out the night with back-to-back hitless frames and ended the game with his second strikeout.

As of this win, Tacoma has scored double-digit runs in each of their last three victories and five of their last seven wins. Their last three games have been separated by nine or more runs.

During a day game on May 22, left-hander Justus Sheffield allowed one run in seven quality innings and Ryan Court touched off for a two-run, go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to secure a 2-1 victory for the Rainiers over the Grizzlies.

In his longest outing of the season, the top prospect Sheffield surrendered just one walk and struck out a pair of Grizzlies (23-23), throwing 57 of his 94 pitches for strikes. The lone run came on a home run in the top of the sixth, which Court erased with his two-run blast in the home half of the inning, also scoring Tim Lopes.

Sheffield kept Tacoma’s lead (23-24) intact in the seventh inning, stranding the potential tying run at third base.

Tayler Scott notched his first save, a six-out effort with no hits allowed and one strikeout.

Austin Nola finished 2-for-4 in the victory, registering his team-leading 15th multi-hit game of the season. The catcher also threw out the tying run on a stolen base attempt by Wilmer Difo in the top of the ninth.

After the Rainiers and their opponents combined for an average of 25 runs per contest over the previous three days, the three combined runs on May 22 were the fewest in a nine-inning game for Tacoma during the campaign.

The series concludes with a game at 7:05 p.m. on May 24. The following day, the Rainiers head out on a road trip with four games at Salt Lake City, followed by five at El Paso.

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