The first two Tacoma leads did not hold up, but the third one did.
Tacoma lost leads of 2-0 and 5-2, fell behind 6-5 in the eighth inning, then rallied with two runs in the top of the ninth and held on for a wild 7-6 victory on Sunday evening in Fresno.
“We won – that’s all that matters,” said Tacoma manager Roy Howell. “Guys kept battling, they executed, they got some sacrifice bunts down, they moved runners over.”
The victory gave Tacoma a win in the Fresno series, two games to one. The Rainiers pulled within five games of .500 at 42-47.
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The Rainiers had four straight hits to open the top of the ninth inning, immediately nullifying Fresno’s two-out, three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth.
Nick Franklin greeted Fresno reliever Dan Runzler with a double to left-center, and Jesus Montero followed with a single to center. Ty Kelly singled past the first baseman to score Franklin with the tying run, while Montero hustled from first to third on the play.
Tacoma sent Xavier Avery in to pinch-run for Montero, while Fresno brought in Erik Cordier to pitch to Gabriel Noriega.
Cordier got two ahead in the count with two quick strikes, but Noriega fought off the next pitch and blooped it into left field for the go-ahead RBI single.
Howell was pleased with the way the Rainiers bounced back in the ninth after giving up the lead.
“Our guys jumped all over it,” said Howell. “They attacked the fastball and hit the ball hard all over the ballpark. Franklin lined that ball off the wall – that just jump-started the offense.”
Carson Smith sealed the victory by working a scoreless bottom of the ninth, earning his fifth save.
Tacoma starter Erasmo Ramirez carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, but he allowed two runs. Adam Duvall hit a long run-scoring double, and he scored the tying run on Mark Minicozzi’s single.
The Rainiers responded quickly, scoring three runs in the top of the seventh. Abraham Almonte drove in Jesus Sucre with a single, and Franklin added a two-run single to make it 5-2.
After scoring one run in the seventh, Fresno stunned Tacoma by taking the lead with three runs in the bottom of the eighth. All three runs came with two outs in the inning, on consecutive hits by 7-8-9 hitters Chris Dominguez, Nick Noonan, and Guillermo Quiroz.
The road trip moves on to Salt Lake City for a four-game series beginning with Monday night’s game at 6:05 PDT. Tacoma starts Matt Palmer (1-4, 4.76 ERA) against Sale Lake’s Wade LeBlanc (5-2, 4.92). The broadcast airs on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers