Heading into the ninth inning Tuesday night at Cheney Stadium, it looked as if the Tacoma Rainiers’ five-game winning streak was a thing of the past.
The Rainiers had managed only one hit against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, which clung to a 1-0 lead. That all changed with one swing of the bat by Ty Kelly.
Kelly doubled Tacoma’s hit total with a two-run double to left with the bases loaded, disappearing under a sea of white jackets after giving the Rainiers a 2-1 victory.
“Any time you win is fun,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “And winning off like that is great. Ty sat down and was patient, and saw a pitch he liked and took a good swing.”
It was Kelly’s first career walk-off hit, and the Rainiers’ win streak stands at six, tied for the longest of the season.
“It felt pretty cool,” Kelly said. “I knew going into the inning we had a shot to make something happen, and then when I had the chance to get up, I thought I would work and try to go opposite field, but he left a fastball for me, and I just reacted.”
The Rainiers’ win came at the expense of a brilliant performance by Sky Sox pitchers, who were led by starter Yohan Flande (2-9, 4.82 ERA). Flande carried a no-hitter into the sixth before allowing a double to Abraham Almonte. He finished with one hit and six strikeouts over six innings.
Kelly said the long cross-country flight from Nashville, Tennessee, earlier in the day caused his team to be less than sharp at the plate.
“Any time you’re flying cross country like that, and then coupled with a six o’clock start, we’re a little tired, so that definitely didn’t help our hitting,” he said.
The Sky Sox’s offense wasn’t spectacular either. They scored their first and only run in the top of the second inning. Sky Sox third baseman Paul Janish roped a double off Rainiers starter Jordan Pries to the corner in left, scoring Drew Garcia, who was on base after a fielder’s choice.
Tacoma, meanwhile, failed to even put a runner on base until the fourth, when Chris Taylor drew a walk. But the next batter, Almonte, who was coming off a two-RBI night Monday in Nashville, hit into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning.
Things stayed quiet on both sides until the bottom of the sixth, when Almonte’s double gave Tacoma its first hit. But that opportunity also was squandered, as Xavier Nady followed with a groundout to end the inning.
“We really didn’t have a lot going for us offensively tonight,” Howell said. “Our guys were grinding, and give them credit, their pitchers threw a hell of a game. Luckily, we had some things work out for us, and we were able to salvage a win.”
The Rainiers will send left-hander James Gillheeney (2-6, 5.77 ERA) against Colorado Springs lefty Christian Friedrich (1-8, 7.89) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.andybixler@ thenewstribune.com