ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Heading into the Rainiers’ season, it made sense to think that one of the team’s strongest areas was going to be the bullpen.
That theory became reality on Saturday as three relievers combined to shut down the Isotopes’ offense and allow the Rainiers to score a 9-7 comeback win.
With the Rainiers trailing 6-1 after five innings, relievers Zach Miner, Logan Kensing and Carson Smith combined to allow just one unearned run the rest of the way — while at the same time, Tacoma’s offense lit up.
Cole Gillespie started the comeback with a two-run homer to left in the top of the sixth off Isotopes starter Henry Sosa. Ty Kelly added a two-out RBI double later in the inning, making it 6-4.
Nick Franklin and Gillespie had back-to-back run-scoring hits with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, tying the score at 6.
Albuquerque regained the lead with an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh, but Tacoma tied it in the eighth when James Jones singled home Endy Chavez.
After Kensing (1-0) delivered a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Gillespie started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out double off Albuquerque reliever Jose Dominguez. Gillespie went 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Dominguez (0-1) wild pitched Gillespie to third base before walking Ji-Man Choi. With Jesus Montero at the plate, a Dominguez fastball got past catcher Miguel Olivo, allowing Gillespie to score the go-ahead run. Montero followed with a long double to right, bringing home Choi to make it 9-7.
The bullpen shined again in the bottom of the ninth. After Joc Pederson opened with a double, Kensing retired Jamie Romak on a called strike three.
Carson Smith relieved Kensing and proceeded to get Clint Robinson and Olivo on grounders to record his first Triple-A save.
Andrew Carraway was the surprise starting pitcher for Tacoma, getting bumped up one day in the rotation on late notice. Carraway did not allow a hit through the first three innings, but gave up five runs in the fourth and another in the fifth.
The teams meet for a day game on Sunday, with first pitch set for 12:35 p.m. Tacoma starts Chance Ruffin (0-1, 14.41) against Albuquerque’s Red Patterson (0-0, 5.40).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.