The prospect showcase between the Tacoma Rainiers and the Memphis Redbirds on Thursday night belonged Michael Wacha, the St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2012.
But that was just the first half of the game.
Wacha retired the first 13 batters he faced and allowed one run on two hits in seven innings before leaving with a four-run lead to outshine the other hot commodities on the two teams’ rosters.
Then the Rainiers rallied to tie it in the ninth inning before W.F. West product Brock Peterson doubled home the game’s winning run in the 10th to push the Redbirds to a 6-5 win in front of 4,127 at Cheney Stadium.
Wacha was untouchable until Stefen Romero broke up his perfect game in the fifth inning.
In the eighth, Franklin Gutierrez kick-started a three-run rally for the Rainiers with a bases-loaded single to center on a 3-2 pitch. It was his first hit since the Seattle Mariners sent him to the disabled list with a hamstring injury suffered against the Houston Astros on April 22.
The Rainiers trailed 5-4 in the ninth when Rich Poythress walked and Abraham Almonte pinch ran and reached second on a wild pitch before Corey Patterson singled him home to send the game to extra innings.
The two teams came in with seven of Baseball America’s preseason top 100 prospects, though only four played: Wacha (ranked 76th) and second baseman Kolten Wong (84) for Memphis and Mike Zunino (17) and Nick Franklin (79) for Tacoma.
Wacha failed to earn the win, but he dropped his earned-run average to 1.89 and struck out a season-high eight batters.
Rainiers starting pitcher Jimmy Gillheeney had a harder time retiring batters. He allowed a leadoff home run to Kolten Wong in the sixth. Ryan Jackson followed with a double, advanced to third on Peterson’s single, and was brought home on Memphis’ third sacrifice fly of the game.
That ended Gillheeney’s performance after 5ª innings and five earned runs.
Jhonny Nunez replaced him and allowed the first three batters to reach base in the seventh. But he got out of the jam unscathed by striking out Wong, forcing Jackson to pop out to first, and getting Peterson to ground out to third.
Brian Moran took over and struck out the side in the ninth, but ultimately earned the loss after allowing pinch-runner Vance Albitz to score the winner on Peterson’s double after Wong reached base in the 10th.
The second game of this four-game set starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma’s Andrew Carraway (4-1, 3.09 ERA) is scheduled to face Tyler Lyons (2-1, 4.39 ERA). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.