ROUND ROCK, Texas – A rain delay and muddy conditions were exactly what the Tacoma Rainiers needed on Wednesday night in Round Rock.
Maybe all of those muddy games in April at Cheney Stadium helped the Rainiers get ready for this one, because Tacoma, after a 1 hour, 13 minute-rain delay, pulled off a come-from-behind 8-6 win over the Express.
The Rainiers trailed 6-3 when the rain hit in the middle of the sixth inning.
More than an hour later, the Rainiers returned to the field and sent Chance Ruffin to the mound – and he delivered three scoreless innings, earning the win when Tacoma rallied in the eighth.
With the rain starting again and the field getting slick, Round Rock reliever Justin Miller issued back-to-back walks to open the eighth. Stefen Romero and Carlos Triunfel hit one-out singles, and Joe Dunigan drew a bases loaded walk to make it 6-5.
Jason Jaramillo grounded out against new reliever Ben Rowen to drive in the tying run, and then the Rainiers got their big break.
Leury Bonilla hit a grounder to third base, where Mike Bianucci fielded it cleanly – before throwing the ball over the head of the first baseman, allowing two runs to score and giving the Rainiers an 8-6 lead.
“This was a game we shouldn’t have won,” Tacoma manager John Stearns said. “We got a lot of help from their pitcher. We never gave up and thought we could grind it out.”
The ninth inning was played in a driving rain, with mud a big factor. Round Rock loaded the bases with two outs against Brian Moran, before Logan Bawcom got the final out to secure his 19th save.
“Conditions were bad,” Stearns said. “Luckily we were able to finish off that last inning.”
Tom Wilhelmsen made his second start for the Rainiers, and had a recurrence of the control problems that plagued him in the majors.
Wilhelmsen walked two of the first three batters he faced before giving up a two-run double to Mike Bianucci. He issued a third walk in the inning before inducing a double-play grounder to end it.
Wilhelmsen went 12/3 innings, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks.
The Rainiers got him off the hook by scoring three times in the top of the third. Leury Bonilla and Abraham Almonte singled, and Ty Kelly walked to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Bonilla, and Rich Poythress singled off the left field fence to score two more runs and tie the game, 3-3.
Round Rock is stockpiling former Tacoma left-handers. Already in possession of Nate Robertson (2011) and Ryan Feierabend (2007-2008, 2010), Round Rock added Travis Blackley (2004, 2006) on Wednesday.
The Rainiers’ trip concludes with a 5:05 p.m. (PDT) game Thursday. Tacoma will start Taijuan Walker (3-2, 3.73 ERA) against Feierabend (5-4, 3.70).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.