J.R. Towles’ blast left the ballpark in a hurry, sailing over the left-field fence and directly into the Tacoma Rainiers’ bullpen.
Unsuspectingly, the Rainiers’ relief pitchers, bundled up in jackets and leisurely watching the game from lawn chairs, were immediately in harm’s way as the second-inning homer rained down on them.
An inning later, Ryan Jackson duplicated the feat — another home run off a Memphis bat, with the ball once again zeroing in on Tacoma’s bullpen.
In the end, however, it was a simple bunt that did the most damage to the Rainiers’ pitching staff.
Adron Chambers’ perfectly placed bunt with two outs in the top of the ninth kick-started a four-run inning for the visiting Redbirds, helping Memphis to a 7-4 victory over Tacoma in Pacific Coast League play Friday before a crowd of 6,136 at Cheney Stadium.
Chambers just beat pitcher Brian Sweeney’s throw to first, scoring Justin Christian to break up a 3-3 game.
“Play of the game right there,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “Chambers just laid down a perfect bunt. Two outs with two strikes, tie game and he bunts.”
Jermaine Curtis followed Chambers’ hit with a single to shallow left field to score two runs, and Chad Huffman’s RBI closed out the scoring for Memphis.
Suddenly, the Redbirds (22-17) had a four-run lead.
The Rainiers (24-18) got a run-scoring single from Abraham Almonte in the bottom of the ninth.
Tacoma starter Andrew Carraway allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings, with six strikeouts and a pair of walks.
Rainiers right fielder Carlos Peguero extended his season-high hitting streak to nine games with a 2-for-4 effort. Peguero tied the game at 3 with a home run to right-center in the sixth.
Jackson hit a two-run homer off Carraway with two outs in the third for a 3-0 lead for the Redbirds. It was Jackson’s second home run of the season.
Tacoma sliced into the early 3-0 deficit, getting RBI from Nick Franklin (third inning) and Rich Poythress (fourth).
Tacoma batters continued to add to their PCL-worst strikeout total, striking out 10 times to balloon their season total to 418. The Rainiers entered the contest with 84 more strikeouts than Nashville, the next-closest club. Peguero and Poythress were the only batters who avoided striking out Friday.
The series continues at 5 p.m. Saturday, when Jeremy Bonderman (2-3, 3.70 ERA) takes the mound for Tacoma against Nick Additon (2.1, 4.00) of Memphis.