Ji-Man Choi kept running the bases. By the time he reached home plate, he was out of gas.
Choi’s sixth-inning single to left center, combined with two errors on the play, also knocked out the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
The four-run play helped lift the Tacoma Rainiers to a 6-3 win in front of 3,923 at Cashman Field on Sunday night.
Coming into Sunday, Las Vegas (77-66) was tied with El Paso for first place in the Pacific Southern Division with two games left. The Chihuahuas would clinch the title when the 51s lost — as about an hour earlier they traveled to beat Reno, 7-4, in 10 innings.
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El Paso’s one-game lead is enough for the title and playoff berth as it owns the tiebreaker after taking the season series, 10-6. The 51s once had a 9 1/2-game lead over the Chihuahuas in mid-July.
Tacoma starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (3-5) was sharp, especially early, getting nine groundouts in the first 3 1/3 innings. He went 8 innings, allowing 10 hits, three runs, while striking out five on 111 pitches (72 strikes).
“He’s a veteran guy,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “I’m going to give him a chance to out there. I was going to use him until he reached his pitch count (of 115). We got him close to his max as we can. You let your veterans go out there, especially this late in the season.”
With the bases loaded, Choi’s two-RBI single got past center fielder Kyle Johnson. He then tried for third. When shortstop Matt Reynolds’ throw got away toward the Rainiers’ on-deck circle, Choi ran home and dived head-first, beating the throw of starting pitcher Logan Verrett (5-3) and the tag of catcher Johnny Monell to make it 5-2.
The Rainiers had anxious moments again for the second consecutive night with a lead. But lightning wouldn’t strike twice.
In the sixth with two runners on and Tacoma leading 6-3, Reynolds’ deep fly ball landed a foot in front of the right field wall and in Julio Morban’s glove to end the inning. Wang also stranded runners at second and third in the seventh.
Jesus Montero’s hitting streak is at 10 games after going 2 for 4 with a run and third-inning RBI single to left. During the streak, he is batting .568 (21 for 37) with 12 runs and 15 RBIs.
The Rainiers play at Las Vegas in their final game of the season Monday. First pitch is 12:05 p.m. Tacoma left-hander Tyler Olson (2-5, 5.03 ERA) will face Las Vegas right-hander Tim Stauffer (4-0, 2.10). The game can be heard on 850-AM.