NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On the day that Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game for the parent club, the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers played about as imperfectly as possible for two innings, blowing a five-run lead Wednesday.
But with one swing of his bat, Carlos Peguero lifted Tacoma to an unlikely 7-6 win over the Nashville Sounds.
With Tacoma trailing 6-5 in the top of the eighth inning, Alex Liddi at first base and one out, the left-handed Peguero connected for a home run to center field off left-hand relief specialist Juan Perez, giving Tacoma a one-run lead.
Nashville had brought in Perez specifically to face left-handed sluggers Luis Jimenez and Peguero. Jimenez struck out, but Peguero delivered. Peguero is batting .338 against left-handed pitchers, with seven of his 20 home runs coming against southpaws.
“He hangs in there pretty good against them; he has an idea what they are going to try to do,” Tacoma manager Daren Brown said. “If they make a mistake, he’ll make them pay for it.”
Tacoma’s third win in four games looked like it wasn’t going to happen. After building a 5-0 lead with home runs from Carlos Triunfel and Guillermo Quiroz, the Rainiers allowed six runs to score on a series of mental and physical errors in the fourth and fifth innings.
“We took a 5-0 lead, and it felt like we handed it back to them,” Brown said. “We obviously made some mistakes but were able to win in spite of them. We had mistakes on the bases and mistakes on the field. Hopefully, we’ll learn from them and move on.”
Among the mistakes: shortstop Nick Franklin mistakenly throwing a live ball out of play to allow two runners to advance, third baseman Vinnie Catricala picking up a bunt in fair territory when it looked like it was going to roll foul, and catcher Quiroz throwing the ball into left field on an after-the-pitch pickoff play at third base with two outs, allowing Nashville to take a 6-5 lead.
Tacoma starter Erasmo Ramirez was charged with all six runs, allowing eight hits and one walk in five innings.
The bullpen saved the day. Brian Sweeney (6-3) tossed two scoreless innings and earned the win. Chance Ruffin pitched a scoreless eighth to hold the lead after Peguero’s homer, and Danny Farquhar worked the ninth to pick up his second save.
Brown managed Hernandez at Single-A Inland Empire in 2004, and Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard was the pitching coach for the 66ers that same year. Both instructors were working with the team on the field in Nashville, getting updates from the clubhouse, when Hernandez completed his perfect game for the Mariners.
The third game of the series is at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) today. Tacoma starts D.J. Mitchell (0-2, 3.63 ERA) against Nashville’s Wily Peralta (6-10, 4.95).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.