It took a three-run home run from Ty Kelly and a nerve-wracking ninth inning, but the Tacoma Rainiers were able to extend their winning streak to three games by beating the Las Vegas 51s, 5-4, on Thursday night at Cheney Stadium.
“They swung the bats well all night,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “Good defense, and the pitching kept pounding it in there. I got a little nervous in the ninth, but it held and was a good night.”
Starting pitcher Jordan Pries, while not perfect, bounced back after getting roughed up in his past two games. He lasted seven innings, and needed only 92 pitches to do it.
“I just tried to slow things down,” he said. “I’ve been (working on) not getting ahead of myself and forcing pitches. I’m pretty competitive, so that tends to happen when I’m out there and I just need to slow down.”
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The 51s got off to a fast start against Pries. Leadoff hitter Matt den Dekker doubled on Pries’ first offering of the night and later scored.
“Jordan just needs to slow down, keep his pacing right,” Howell said. “When (Pries) slows down and gets better balance, he has better control and becomes a very good pitcher. He can give us a chance to win.”
And he did. The right-hander gave up four hits and one earned run. He allowed a season-high seven earned runs in his previous outing, July 19 at Reno.
Tacoma answered in the bottom of the first as Abraham Almonte led off with a double of his own. Almonte scored when the next hitter, Nick Franklin, hit a line drive into the right-field corner to take advantage of a slightly shifted defense.
In the fourth inning, a throwing error by Franklin with two outs allowed Las Vegas to take a 3-1 lead. Andrew Brown reached base on the error, and Brandon Allen followed with a two-run homer that just cleared the wall in right-center.
It was Franklin’s ninth error of the year.
Almonte and Franklin teamed up again in the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back doubles that cut the deficit to 3-2.
A single by Ji-Man Choi gave the Rainiers two on with no outs, and after a Justin Smoak strikeout, Kelly belted a three-run homer to give Tacoma a 5-3 lead.
The lead held despite an iffy ninth inning. Reliever Todd Coffey put runners on the corners and gave up a run on a sacrifice fly before getting Juan Centeno to fly out to center field for the final out.
Tacoma begins a four-day, five-game homestand with Sacramento at 7:05 p.m. Friday. The Rainiers will go with right-hander Matt Palmer (1-8, 5.50 ERA), while Sacramento will start right-hander Arnold Leon (9-4, 4.62).
The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.