Passed ball, pop-out push Rainiers past Reno, 4-3

Contributing writerMay 7, 2014 

— An old baseball adage says if you come to the ballpark every day, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

That phrase applies to how Tacoma scored the winning run in a 4-3 victory at Reno on Wednesday night.

With the score tied and one out in the top of the ninth inning, Nick Franklin scored all the way from second base on a passed ball by Reno catcher Blake Lalli.

Jabari Blash was the batter, and he swung and missed at a fastball from reliever Will Harris. That’s when things got strange.

“I swung and missed, and then I see Franklin start running and the catcher is just sitting there,” said Blash. “Then I looked back and saw what happened.”

The pitch crossed-up Lalli, and it glanced off the side his facemask and went to the backstop. For several seconds, nobody pursued the baseball while Franklin was tearing around third base.

“(Lalli) got crossed up, he had no idea where the ball was, so we had Nick just keep going,” said Tacoma manager Roy Howell, who waved Franklin around third. “That was a very unusual play, you could go a lifetime without seeing that one.”

Logan Bawcom earned his fourth save, getting some big help from his defense.

With the tying run at first base and one out, Bawcom had to face clean-up hitter Mike Jacobs and his PCL-leading .379 batting average.

Jacobs hit a foul pop fly on the third base side. Tacoma was in a defensive shift, and third baseman Leury Bonilla was stationed where the shortstop normally lines up. Bonilla went racing full speed towards the seats and lunged into the first row, making a stunning catch for the second out of the inning.

“That type of play picks everybody up,” said Howell. “It was a great play by Bonilla.”

Chance Ruffin started for Tacoma, allowing three runs and leaving the bases loaded with no outs in the fifth for reliever Jonathan Arias.

Arias escaped the jam with no runs scoring, and then delivered two more scoreless frames in his best game of the season.

“It’s the wrong sport, but we gave Arias the game ball,” said Howell. “You can’t ask any more of a pitcher in that situation.”

SHORT HOPS

Blash connected for his first Triple-A home run in the second inning, an opposite-field shot off Reno starter Bo Schultz. … Infielder Gabriel Noriega sat out his fifth straight game since jamming his left ankle on the third base bag in a win over Las Vegas on Friday night.

ON TAP

Right-hander Zach Miner (0-1, 9.00) will make his first start as a member of the Rainiers in the third game of the series Thursday at 6:35 p.m. Reno will counter with right-hander Zeke Spruill (0-1, 5.50).

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers

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