TUCSON, Ariz. – For all Darren Ford did to win the game Saturday night, the way it actually folded was beyond anyone’s expectations.
After going 4-for-5 with a grand slam, six RBI and two stolen bases, Tacoma’s leadoff hitter scored the winning run on a wild pitch that came during an intentional walk with two outs in the top of the ninth inning as the Rainiers beat Tucson, 8-7.
With the score tied 7-7, Ford opened up the ninth inning with a single against Tucson reliever Miles Mikolas. He stole second base – his 22nd steal in 36 games.
Nick Franklin sacrificed Ford to third, but when Justin Smoak struck out for the second out, it looked like the Rainiers needed a hit to take the lead.
Tucson’s Bob Skube – managing for Terry Kennedy, who was ejected in the sixth – ordered an intentional walk of Luis Jimenez to set up a right-hander-versus-right-hander matchup with Alex Liddi.
Mikolas’ first intentional ball was a high-arching lob over catcher Rocky Gale. Gale made a leaping attempt to catch it, but the ball glanced off his mitt and Ford raced home with the go-ahead run.
“Ford led off and does what he does – stealing a bag, and moving over,” Tacoma manager Daren Brown said. “Obviously, they didn’t execute on the intentional walk. That’s not something you see a lot.”
Stephen Pryor worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth, and Tacoma had the win.
Ford’s winning run capped a day in which he hit a two-out grand slam in the fourth inning, and added a two-out, two-run single in the sixth.
Danny Hultzen had another erratic outing for Tacoma. After showing excellent command and appearing dominant at times through the first four innings, the Rainiers starter became unhinged in the fifth and sixth.
“At times he looked really good, and at times his command wasn’t as good. He wasn’t real sharp, but he showed good stuff at times,” Brown said.
Hultzen lasted 52/3 innings, allowing seven runs – six earned – on six hits. He walked three, struck out six, hit a batter and had a wild pitch.
Third baseman Vinnie Catricala and shortstop Carlos Triunfel are both day-to-day with wrist injuries. Brown said that Catricala might be available to play today. ... The game started 20 minutes late because the grounds crew needed time to prepare the field following a downpour.
A doubleheader is set for 6:05 p.m. Tacoma’s Hector Noesi (0-2, 10.54) will start against Tucson’s Jorge Reyes (7-9, 5.30) in the first game. Both teams were undecided on their game two starters.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.