SALT LAKE CITY — In the end, it was worth the wait.
The Tacoma Rainiers gutted out a 1 hour, 15 minute sixth-inning rain delay, only to blow a two-run lead. The Rainiers then scored three times in the ninth inning to beat the Salt Lake Bees, 6-4.
Sunday’s victory gave Tacoma a split of the four-game series and pushed the Rainiers’ lead in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific North Division back to four games.
Salt Lake is now tied for second place with Colorado Springs.
Taijuan Walker started for Tacoma, delivering five strong innings. Pitching away from Cheney Stadium for his first time in Triple A, Walker dealt with the high elevation of Salt Lake City by inducing ground balls — no fly balls were hit into the outfield until the fourth inning.
With Tacoma holding a 1-0 lead with one out in the fourth, former Mariners and Rainiers infielder Luis Rodriguez pulled a homer to right field for the Bees off Walker, tying the score.
It was the first (and only) run Walker has allowed at the Triple-A level, ending a string of 14 scoreless innings for the precocious 20-year-old.
Walker made it through five innings, giving up one run on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He had a 3-1 lead and his pitch count was at 85, but he was pulled after the rain delay.
“He finally gave up a run,” said Tacoma manager John Stearns. “It’s too bad he had to leave with the rain delay.”
Tacoma brought in Hector Noesi after the rain cleared, and he promptly gave up two runs to tie the game. Noesi (2-1) settled down and pitched into the ninth inning without allowing another run, earning the win when Tacoma scored three unearned runs in the top of the ninth.
Carlos Triunfel opened the ninth by reaching on an error by second baseman Tommy Field. Brandon Bantz walked on four pitches, and Leury Bonilla bunted the runners into scoring position.
Abraham Almonte grounded out to second base, driving in Triunfel with the go-ahead run. Ty Kelly followed with an infield single to score Bantz, and Stefen Romero doubled home Kelly to make it 6-3.
Kelly, who was 4-for-4, has 11 hits in his last 15 at-bats.
“If baseball was as easy as Kelly made it look this series, then we’d all be better players than we were,” said Stearns.
The road trip moves to Tucson, Ariz., where the Rainiers and Padres will meet in a three-game series between division leaders. In the first game, at 7:05 p.m. Monday, Tacoma is scheduled to start James Paxton (5-6, 5.14) against Tucson’s Matt Andriese (1-0, 1.50). The game will be aired on 850-AM.Mike Curto is the Tacoma Rainiers’ radio broadcaster.