Leave it to the Tacoma Rainiers to dampen Mother’s Day.
The Albuquerque Isotopes had a perfectly good holiday party going on Sunday: Mothers in attendance enjoyed a pregame catch on the outfield grass, players sported a variety of pink uniform accents and the home team raced to a 5-0 lead.
Everything was sunny – but it didn’t last.
By the seventh inning, a sudden rain shower had fans scattering and the Isotopes’ lead had been washed away. Tacoma blasted three home runs, including a tie-breaking shot in the ninth, and snatched a 7-6 victory from the frustrated ‘Topes.
It was the 11th meeting between the teams already this season and Tacoma prevailed for the seventh time. The Rainiers’ 3-4-5 hitters – Stefen Romero, Mike Zunino and Efren Navarro – have been murder on Albuquerque pitching and combined for six hits, two home runs and four RBIs on Sunday.
“Those are three of the top hitters in the league,” Isotopes outfielder Stephen Cardullo said. “Everyone has trouble getting them out. Tacoma’s a tough team.”
Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill was more frustrated by little things that added up to big trouble for his team. The Rainiers bunted for three hits against Albuquerque starter Ryan Carpenter and seemed to get the 6-foot-5 left-hander out of his game.
Carpenter threw away a pickoff attempt for an error, uncorked a wild pitch and allowed a two-run homer to Romero immediately after Chris Taylor’s fifth-inning bunt single.
“I thought (Carpenter) got a little distracted with the running game,” Hill said. “He was more focused on the guy on first base than I’ve seen him and it didn’t pay off. He tried to pick (Taylor) off and then left a changeup up for a home run (to Romero).”
The ‘Topes were still clinging to a 5-4 lead in the seventh when Zunino’s two-out grounder skipped under third baseman Chris Nelson’s glove for an error. Two base hits later, the Rainiers led 6-5.
“We’ve got to handle the ball,” Hill said. “That’s all there is to it.”
Not all the news was unpleasant. Cardullo continued his remarkably consistent start, belting a three-run homer (his fourth) and driving in four runs. He shares the Pacific Coast League lead in games played with 30.
“Stephen Cardullo’s been seeing the ball well since spring training,” Hill said. “He’s not even a surprise anymore.”
Cardullo credited hitting coach John “T-Bone” Shelby for his steady performance this season.
“Every day T-Bone brings something new to the table for me,” Cardullo said. “He and the staff here have been taking me to another level.”
Mike Tauchman also picked up a pair of hits, including an RBI triple, and extended his career-best hitting streak to 11 games. But the Mother’s Day heroics would not be enough.
With the score tied at 6, Isotopes reliever Simon Castro battled to get Romero and Zunino out to open the ninth inning. Navarro followed with an opposite-field homer to left that would provide the winning run.
The teams play the finale of their four-game series today and won’t meet again until July 30. Tacoma and Albuquerque already have played 11 times, the Rainiers having won seven of those games.
“We’ve had some very competitive games with Tacoma,” Hill said, “but it will be nice to see someone else. We just need to get one more win first.”