SALT LAKE CITY — The fourth run was hard to get on the Fourth of July.
The Tacoma Rainiers and Salt Lake Bees were tied at 3 midway through the fourth inning, and then neither team scored until the bottom of the ninth. Each team had several scoring opportunities that fizzled out.
In the ninth, Salt Lake scored four runs on one swing — a walk-off grand slam by Kole Calhoun — and the Bees claimed a 7-3 victory in the opener of a four-game series.
Salt Lake (48-40) climbed to three games behind first-place Tacoma.
The bottom of the ninth began with Matt Long hitting a triple to right-center field off Rainiers reliever Josh Kinney.
With the winning run at third base and nobody out, Tacoma manager John Stearns instructed Kinney to intentionally walk the next two batters, loading the bases to set up a force out at the plate.
Tacoma brought in left-handed relief specialist Bobby LaFromboise to face the left-handed Calhoun. The infield was brought in, and the outfield played shallow because any deep fly ball would end the game with a sacrifice fly.
Calhoun drove the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall for a grand slam, spreading jubilation throughout the announced sellout crowd of 14,583.
“I got a pitch to hit, and I put a good swing on it,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know what happened after that.”
It was the fourth walk-off grand slam in modern Salt Lake franchise history, dating to 1994.
Tacoma (51-37) trailed
3-0 after three innings but tied the score in the fourth.
Back-to-back singles by Carlos Peguero and Rich Poythress opened the inning. With one out, new second baseman Ty Kelly pulled a three-run homer deep down the right-field line for his first homer with the Rainiers.
Kelly — playing in his third game since being acquired from Baltimore for outfielder Eric Thames — was 3-for-3 with the homer and a walk.
In 283 at-bats with Double-A Bowie before the trade, Kelly hit one home run.
Kelly’s home run ended a six-game homerless streak for the Rainiers. Tacoma led the Pacific Coast League in home runs before the streak, but it now ranks second with 94, behind Las Vegas’ 97.
Brian Sweeney started for Tacoma and allowed three runs over 5† innings, earning no decision. It was the second consecutive year that Sweeney started the July 4 game at Salt Lake — he won it in 2012, 6-5.
Tacoma sends right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (2-3, 2.82 ERA) to the mound in the second game of the series at 6:05 p.m. Friday. Salt Lake’s listed starter is right-hander Barry Enright (3-4, 7.23). The broadcast airs on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.