A pop up to the pitcher won the game.
Yes, a high pop fly with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and that was it, the Tacoma Rainiers walked away with a 2-1 victory against the El Paso Chihuahuas on Friday night at Cheney Stadium.
“I realized it was going to fall about two-thirds of the way down,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “I’m like, ‘Nobody’s going to catch it.’
“I looked at the ball, looked at the catcher and I looked at the third baseman and I looked at the pitcher. And I was like, ‘No one is going to catch it.’ We’ll take the win.”
Here’s how it happened:
Tyler O’Neill was up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a 1-1 tie. The bases were loaded because of three walks.
On a 1-2 pitch, O’Neill skied a pop fly just in front of the pitcher’s mound.
It looked like El Paso catcher Rocky Gale might try to call for it. But he backed away about a third of the way down. Then maybe relief pitcher Keith Hessler. But the ball shockingly dropped in front of Hessler’s feet as Rainiers catcher Tuffy Gosewisch had already crossed home plate for the winning run.
“That’s an infielder’s ball in my opinion,” Listach said. “Only balls the pitchers should catch are the ones right at them.”
It ended a 3-hour, 5-minute marathon of a game that was delayed and hour and three minutes by rain.
The Rainiers scored their two runs despite only three hits – all singles.
Let’s go to the observations:
PLAY OF THE GAME
Bullet: Obviously the last one. An El Paso blunder. Tyler O’Neill hit a high pop fly that should have been an easy third out to send the game to extra innings. Instead it landed in front of pitcher Keith Hessler’s feet to allow the game-winning run to score.
Officially scored as an error on Hessler, even though he never touched the ball. Neither of the Rainiers’ runs were earned.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Bullet: Boog Powell had his first hits of the season. He finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, a stolen base and two walks.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Bullet: Emilio Pagan faced five batters and struck out four of them when he entered as a reliever in the fourth inning. That came after 3 hours and 3 minutes of rain delay.
Bullet: Like strikeouts? Rainiers relievers Emilio Pagan and Nick Hagadone and Casey Fien combined to strike out 10 of 13 batters in one stretch.
Bullet: Catcher Tuffy Gosewisch caught Frachy Cordero stealing in the top of the third inning. Then he ended the inning when he caught Cory Spangenberg stealing. So two throw outs in one inning.
Bullet: The Rainiers didn’t have a hit until one out in the bottom of the fifth inning when Boog Powell singled to right field. But they still had a run because of a walk, stolen base, and El Paso error and Tyler O’Neill’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning.
Bullet: Gordon Beckham and Zach Shank combined to go 0-for-9. Neither reached base.
Bullet: The Rainiers were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and only had three singles for hits this game. Yet still won the game.
Bullet: The longest game that didn’t go into extra innings last year lasted 3 hours and 37 minutes. This one lasted 3 hours and five minutes.
Bullet: Rainiers relievers combined to pitch six innings and strike out 10 batters, including five strikeouts for Emilio Pagan.
Bullet: El Paso walked nine batters.
“I think we were chasing a few balls out of the zone today,” Listach said. “We got to make some adjustments. If these guys want to walk us, we got to take our walks. We could have done that the whole night.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677