ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Tacoma won its third straight close game in Albuquerque — an 8-6 Pacific Coast League decision on Monday night – and the Rainiers bullpen again gets credit for making it possible.
In all three games, Tacoma was trailing after six innings. Rainiers relievers did not allow an earned run after the sixth inning in any of the three.
“You can’t come back if you’re giving up runs late,” said Tacoma manager Roy Howell. “You tip your hat to the bullpen the last three days.”
Monday the Rainiers were without a properly rested starting pitcher, due to the callup of Blake Beavan, so long reliever Brandon Maurer filled in. Maurer needed 49 pitches to get through two innings before giving way to Jonathan Arias. By the time Arias was done at the end of the fifth inning, the Rainiers trailed 6-4.
Logan Kensing delivered two scoreless innings, and the Rainiers tied the game by taking advantage of Albuquerque mistakes and scoring single runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Clay Rapada (2-0) kept the Isotopes off the scoreboard in the eighth, and the Rainiers’ offense went to work in the top of the ninth.
Facing veteran PCL reliever Steve Edlefsen, Nick Franklin led off with a single to right-center field but was forced at second by Cole Gillespie’s fielder’s choice.
Ji-Man Choi was up next, and he laced an Edlefsen pitch off the wall in left-center field, scoring Gillespie from first base with the go-ahead run.
“Choi got the pitcher into a fastball count, he got the fastball and he hit it hard,” said Howell. “That’s a good hitter.”
Choi scored three batters later on an infield grounder by Jesus Sucre, giving Tacoma an insurance run.
Logan Bawcom proved the insurance run was unnecessary, retiring the side in order to earn his first save of the year. Bawcom finished fifth in the PCL with 21 saves in 2013.
Tacoma (5-5) brings a three-game win streak into a homestand that opens Tuesday night.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker (shoulder) will make a rehabilitation start for the Rainiers on Tuesday at Cheney Stadium. ... Infielder Chris Taylor went 10-for-18 over the four-game series in Albuquerque.
The Rainiers open an eight-game homestand tonight with a 6:05 game against the Salt Lake Bees. Tacoma starts Taijuan Walker (season debut) against Salt Lake’s Joe Martinez (0-2, 18.00 ERA).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.