Rainiers' lefties let lead slip away in 12-11 loss to Sky Sox

Contributing writerJune 20, 2013 

— The Colorado Springs Sky Sox lineup is heavily left-handed.

The Sky Sox started six left-handed hitters and had another one on the bench Thursday night.

Those left-handed hitters led a surprising comeback against the Tacoma Rainiers’ left-handed relievers, as the Sky Sox claimed a 12-11 victory.

Hernan Iribarren had the winning hit, an RBI single to center with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Tacoma hit four home runs and built an 11-4 lead by the middle of the sixth. Carlos Peguero hit two home runs, Franklin Gutierrez had a three-run shot to center and Abraham Almonte chipped in a two-run blast.

Starter Hector Noesi ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth, leaving with the bases loaded, no outs and an 11-5 lead.

Tacoma manager John Stearns was ready with his left-handed relievers to get the platoon advantage on the Sky Sox lineup.

Lucas Luetge came in from the bullpen, and the left-hander got two quick outs with one run scoring. Then left-handed Ryan Wheeler stroked a two-run single, Charlie Culberson homered to center, and it was 11-10.

The Sky Sox scored the tying and winning runs against Tacoma’s shut-down left-hander Brian Moran.

“I was shocked that our bullpen couldn’t set them down,” Stearns said. “It was left-on-left. We had two really good left-handers out there. It was shocking to see how many balls they hit hard off those two guys in the last three innings.”

With the score tied at 11, Drew Garcia doubled over the head of Dustin Ackley in left field to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Lars Davis followed with a sacrifice bunt, sending Garcia to third base.

Stearns elected to intentionally walk Charlie Blackmon and Tim Wheeler, loading the bases for Iribarren.

He lined the second pitch he saw into center field for the winning hit.

SHORT HOPS

Tacoma’s division lead over Colorado Springs dropped to 2 1/2 games. Third-place Salt Lake pulled within four games of Tacoma. … The Rainiers have spent 22 consecutive days in first place — their longest streak since a 41-day run during the 2010 Pacific Coast League championship season.

ON TAP

The Rainiers finish off their longest road trip of the season with a 6:05 p.m. game Friday. Tacoma starts right-hander Brian Sweeney (7-2, 3.81 ERA) against Sky Sox left-hander Drew Pomeranz (7-1, 4.35).

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.

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