WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If the Sacramento River Cats are giving out gifts, the Tacoma Rainiers will take them.
Two different Sacramento outfielders lost track of two consecutive fly balls in the twilight sky, letting routine outs fall in for doubles. The plays resulted in two crucial runs as the Rainiers claimed a 6-4 victory at Raley Field in the opener of a four-game series Friday night.
Tacoma trailed 2-1 in the fifth inning and had a runner at first with one out when Justin Smoak lifted what appeared to be a routine fly to left field, but Shane Peterson lost sight of the ball, and it fell behind him for a double.
Carlos Peguero followed with a high, deep fly to center. Michael Choice knew he had to go back on the ball, but he lost it in the gloaming, and it bounced over the fence for a two-run double — and a Tacoma lead.
“The sky was very tough; it was exactly the color of a baseball up there,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “You need a little luck sometimes, and we got some.”
Brandon Maurer benefited from the tough sky, earning his first Triple-A win in his third start. Maurer did not have his good command, needing 104 pitches to make it through five innings. He escaped several jams and allowed only two runs (one earned).
“Maurer battled,” Stearns said. “It didn’t come easy for him, but he got through five innings with the win.”
Tacoma opened it up in the sixth inning, when Dustin Ackley roped a three-run double to left-center to make it 6-2. Ackley was 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 15 games.
Ackley played center field and made a lunging catch of a sinking low liner, picking it just before it hit the outfield turf.
“Ackley played center field like he’s been there all of the time,” Stearns said. “He’s come down here and been a professional, and everything has gone well for him.”
Brad Miller opened the Tacoma scoring with a solo homer to right in the third inning. Like Ackley, he has a 15-game hitting streak.
Thursday’s homers in Las Vegas — hit by Peguero, Rich Poythress and Nate Tenbrink — marked the first time since August 27, 2007, that the Rainiers hit back-to-back-to-back homers. That game, also in Las Vegas, featured three consecutive home runs by Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse and Bryan LaHair.
Hector Noesi (1-0, 7.36 ERA) will take the mound for Tacoma in the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Sacramento is slated to pitch Travis Banwart (3-2, 4.62). The broadcast airs on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.