Tommy Everidge hit .229 with seven home runs in 65 games as a Tacoma Rainier this season.
But nothing he did in a Tacoma uniform contributed to the Rainiers as much as what he did in a Sacramento River Cats jersey on Sunday night.
Everidge committed a mental error at a crucial time, and combined with the outstanding pitching of Ryan Feierabend, helped the Rainiers defeat the River Cats, 4-1, in Game 5 of the Pacific Coast League Pacific Conference playoff series.
The victory, in front of 843 fans at Safeco Field, gave Tacoma the series win.
The Rainiers will play for the PCL championship, meeting the Memphis Redbirds at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday in Memphis, Tenn.
It’s the first time the Rainiers will play for the league championship since 2005.
“Our guys battled all year,” Tacoma manager Jose Castro said. “To win this against a very good Sacramento team with a freak play at second base is amazing. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.”
The freak play that gave Tacoma the lead for good in the seventh inning left many in the stadium confused.
With one out and Mike Wilson on first base, Jose Yepez hit a grounder that Sacramento shortstop Eric Sogard dived for and snagged, flipping to second baseman Corey Wimberly, who then threw to Everidge at first.
But the umpire had called Wilson safe at second, something Everidge failed to notice.
Thinking it was an inning-ending double play, Everidge flipped the ball into the crowd. By rule, a ball that goes out of play allows a runner to move up two bases.
In this case, Wilson trotted home with what turned out to be the game-winning run.
“After I saw Tommy throw the ball in the stands, the shortstop said, ‘Well, I guess that’s it, you might as well go to home plate,’ ” Wilson said. “That’s when I found out what actually happened. That’s a first.”
Everidge was acquired by Seattle off waivers from Oakland in January and was with Tacoma until June 22, when he was traded for future considerations to Houston, which released him a week later.
He re-signed with the Oakland organization on Aug. 31.
“I’m sure he’s not feeling that great about it right now,” Wilson said.
Matt Mangini gave Tacoma breathing room in the eighth, hitting a two-run home run over the right-center-field fence.
Mangini went 3-for-4 including a double and three RBI. Mangini said the Rainiers didn’t feel any pressure despite losing Games 3 and 4 after taking a 2-0 series lead.
“We never feel like we’re out of it,” Mangini said. “We’ve got guys who can swing the bat and Feierabend was lights out.”
The win would not have come without the outstanding effort from Feierabend.
The 25-year-old left-hander, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, had been mediocre with Tacoma, going 4-7 with a 5.30 ERA.
But against Sacramento – against whom he’d given up seven runs in seven innings this season – he showed why he is still considered a prime pitching prospect for the Mariners.
Feierabend went eight innings, allowing two hits and a run, striking out four and, most importantly, walking none.
In Saturday’s Game 4 loss, Tacoma pitchers walked nine batters.
Fierabend said he simply mixed fastballs and changeups and hit his spots.
“It was special to be on the mound and knowing they wanted me to throw Game 5,” said Feierabend, who was originally supposed to pitch Game 3 before being pushed back. “It was just like any other game, I didn’t feel pressure, but obviously the magnitude was a little different.”
Feierabend made one mistake, leaving a change-up up that Chris Carter hit out for a home run in the fifth inning.
Tacoma tied it in the sixth when Mangini drove in Dustin Ackley with a single to left.
Now Tacoma will head to Memphis for all five games of the PCL finals
With Cheney Stadium under renovation, Safeco Field in use and no Pacific Northwest options that the league would sign off on, winning the championship series with all games in Tennessee will be a challenge but the Rainiers say they’re up to it.
“It’s going to be tough but this team just doesn’t give up,” Mangini said. “We feel we can win anywhere.”
“We wish we could have played some games here, but it didn’t work out that way,” Castro added. “So we’ll do what we have to do.”