RENO – After two years in Japan, the 2009 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player is back in the league. The Tacoma Rainiers learned this the hard way Friday night.
Randy Ruiz, who won the award with Las Vegas three years ago, hit a two-out, full-count, opposite-field grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Reno an 11-9 victory over Tacoma in the opening game of a four-game series.
It was the seventh home run of the season for Ruiz, which ties him with Iowa’s Anthony Rizzo for the league lead. His 28 runs batted in paces the circuit.
Ruiz’s slam off Rainiers reliever Oliver Perez was the deciding blow in a back-and-forth affair that saw Tacoma overcome a 5-0 deficit, eventually building a 9-6 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
Reno starter Zach Kroenke took a 5-0 lead into the fourth inning – a perfectly ordinary situation for the left-hander, who entered the game with a lifetime record of 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA against Tacoma.
But this time, the Rainiers rallied against Kroenke. Designated hitter Luis Jimenez was the linchpin, driving an RBI double off the center- field fence in the fourth inning to put Tacoma on the scoreboard.
Jimenez struck a big blow in the fifth, lifting a two-out, three-run homer to right field on an 0-2 pitch from Kroenke. The sixth homer of the year for Jimenez gave Tacoma a 6-5 lead.
Tacoma tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning on a trio of doubles from Scott Savastano, Leury Bonilla and Trayvon Robinson.
Cesar Jimenez relieved starter Forrest Snow in the sixth, allowing an unearned run in that frame before pitching a perfect seventh. He took the mound in the eighth with a 9-6 lead.
The first three batters reached, and Perez was brought in to put out the fire. He nearly did.
Perez (2-1) recorded two quick outs, with one run scoring to make it 9-7. But he walked Josh Bell to load the bases for Ruiz, who delivered in the clutch.
Tacoma (11-17) has lost seven games in a row to Reno, dating back to last year.
No team has given Tacoma more trouble in the Daren Brown-era than Reno. The Aces are 34-14 against Tacoma since joining the PCL in 2009. … With 364 career wins, Brown is three wins away from surpassing Dave Myers for second place on Tacoma’s all-time list. Dan Rohn is the leader with 375.
The second game of the four-game series is tonight at 6:35. Tacoma starts Brian Sweeney (0-0, 4.63 ERA) against former Rainiers and Mariners right-hander Chris Jakubauskas (1-3, 5.74).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers