Stefen Romero's June wasn't pretty. The left fielder hit .241 and struck out in 18 of 83 at-bats. That changed with the turn of the calendar and a visit to his hometown.
The Mariners' No. 8 prospect had three hits, including a grand slam, and drove in five runs in the Triple-A Rainiers' 7-0 win over the Tucson Padres at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium on Monday.
"In Tucson, you don't draw too many fans on a Monday night, so most of them were family and friends," Romero said.
Romero quickly gave them something to cheer about, extending his hitting streak to eight games with a single in the first inning. Romero's success on the road -- even in his hometown -- continued a season-long trend. The 24-year-old has shown a heavy split on the road vs. at home this season. Entering the game, the 12th-round pick from Oregon State had a .652 OPS at home and a .927 OPS away from Cheney Stadium.
"At home, some balls that get through at other places may not go through," said Romero. "Tacoma's pretty much a neutral ballpark. The grass is a little higher so balls don't skip through, but in the [Pacific Coast League], balls may get through [at other parks]."
Romero, who singled again in the fourth and put the game out of reach with his shot over the left-field fence in the seventh, has multiple hits in four of his last eight games. He's 15-for-33 with a 1.109 OPS in July and has raised his season average to .303.
"I haven't really changed anything," Romero said. "Last month, I felt like I was putting good swing on the ball, but wasn't seeing results. Fortunately this month, I've just been being more patient, driving the ball better, seeing the ball better, getting in better counts, getting into hitting counts and taking my walks when they're not throwing strikes."
The grand slam was Romero's first homer since June 12, when he blasted a pair of four-baggers against Las Vegas. The 6-foot-2 right-handed hitter totaled 23 round-trippers in 2012 between the California and Southern Leagues and hit 16 home runs in 2011 in the Midwest League.
"I just need to get into hitter-friendly counts, be patient, and put my 'A swing' on pitches you should drive," Romero said. "Whatever happens after you put a good swing on it is out of your hands."
James Paxton (6-6) allowed five singles and fanned four in a complete game to earn the win. The 24-year-old left-hander had never thrown more than seven innings in 55 previous starts. Seattle's No. 4 prospect has 91 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings.
"[Paxton] has had a couple outstanding outings his past couple starts," Romero said. "When he works off his fastball and commands like he did tonight, the sky is the limit for him. He has really great stuff. Today he was ahead of hitters early and he made pitches that he needed to make. He located his fastball really well."
It marked Tacoma's first complete-game shutout since fellow southpaw Chris Seddon blanked Colorado Springs through nine frames on June 15, 2010.
Cleanup hitter Carlos Peguero doubled and singled twice in five at-bats. The right fielder has hit in five straight contests. Abraham Almonte and Scott Savastano each added two hits for the Rainiers.
Matt Andriese (1-1) gave up eight hits and three runs and fanned four in six innings to take the loss. The 6-foot-3 right-hander has a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings in Triple A after a callup from the Texas League, where he went 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 76 innings.