Three comebacks weren’t enough for the Tacoma Rainiers on Sunday.
In a game that featured six lead changes in the final five innings, El Paso struck last on Jace Peterson’s two-run double and defeated the Rainiers, 14-12.
Peterson’s hit came shortly after Xavier Avery’s three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Rainiers a 12-11 lead — and Avery’s shot came after teammate Jabari Blash connected for go-ahead home runs in both the fifth and seventh innings.
To say the least, it was a wild game at Cheney Stadium.
“Both sides kept battling, putting runs on the board, beating each other up,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell said. “They ended up throwing the last punch and got us. That was a tough one.”
The conditions didn’t scream “slugfest.”
The game was played in a steady drizzle, and there was no wind at Cheney Stadium. That’s usually favorable conditions for pitching, and neither Tacoma’s James Gillheeney nor El Paso’s Jason Lane allowed a run during the first three innings.
“You look at the first four innings, it was a regular ballgame,” Howell said. “Then all heck broke loose.”
Tacoma was trailing, 3-1, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning when Blash ripped a line drive over the left-field fence for the Rainiers’ first grand slam of the season.
Tacoma was down again, 7-5, in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jesus Montero hit a long two-run double to the base of the center-field wall, and Blash followed with a towering two-run homer to left to make it 9-7, Tacoma.
Blash was 2-for-4 with two homers and six RBIs. He also had two hits and two RBIs in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, showing signs he might be getting accustomed to Triple-A pitching.
“He’s here to swing the bat and drive in runs,” Howell said. “He’s been working hard, and hopefully he can keep it up.”
El Paso’s Brooks Conrad launched a three-run homer off Carson Smith in the top of the eighth to put the Chihuahuas up, 11-9, before Avery connected in the bottom of the inning as Tacoma regained the lead.
Zach Miner tried to close it out in the ninth, but Cody Decker reached on third baseman Patrick Brady’s throwing error.
Miner retired the next two hitters, and he had two strikes on Alex Castellanos before walking him. Peterson lined a two-run double to left-center, and Conrad drove in an insurance run with a double to the right-field corner.
Before the game, Tacoma added utility infielder Brock Hebert to the roster. Hebert was promoted from Advanced-A High Desert, where he hit .289 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 34 games. Hebert was promoted because Tacoma’s Leury Bonilla is day-to-day with left heel soreness.
The Rainiers and Chihuahuas meet in a Memorial Day tilt at 1:35 p.m. Monday. Tacoma starts Andrew Carraway (2-3, 4.91 ERA) against El Paso’s Matt Wisler (0-3, 13.50).Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.