Tacoma’s James Jones was tired of running up the hill, chasing fly balls in center field at Isotopes Park.
So, he thought it might be fun to hit one up the hill himself.
Jones tripled onto the hill to drive in the go-ahead run with two outs in the ninth inning before scoring an insurance run on Ji-Man Choi’s single, and Tacoma beat Albuquerque, 7-5, on Tuesday night.
The go-ahead hit served as redemption for Jones, who twice struggled running up the incline in center trying to catch deep drives that went for extra bases.
“He said he had to get even and have someone else run up that stupid hill they have out there,” said Rainiers manager Roy Howell.
With the score tied 5-5 in the top of the ninth, Xavier Avery reached first base on a swinging strike three that got past the catcher. Avery then stole second base, and there were two outs when Jones came to the plate.
Facing left-hander Rob Carson, Jones barely checked his swing in time on a 2-2 pitch, creating a full count. He drilled the next pitch off the base of the fence in center, sending Albuquerque’s Joc Pederson racing up the hill to retrieve it.
“Off the lefty, he battled and battled and hits a 400-foot rope off the center field fence,” said Howell.
Tacoma starter Jordan Pries lasted six innings, giving up four runs. Albuquerque’s Jamie Romak homered twice off Pries, the second one giving the Isotopes a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning.
The Rainiers scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead, only to see Albuquerque tie the game against Logan Kensing in the bottom half of the inning.
Kensing rebounded to pitch a perfect eighth inning, and Todd Coffey worked the ninth to earn his sixth save.
Tacoma (60-58) won the series in Albuquerque 3-1 and finished the eight-game road trip with a 5-3 record.
“It was a great way to finish a good road trip,” said Howell.
Stefen Romero made his first appearance in the infield since June 17, 2013. He started at second base while Ty Kelly played third, giving Nate Tenbrink a day off as he continues his return from back problems. Romero handled all of his chances cleanly.
The Rainiers have Wednesday off before starting a five-game homestand at Cheney Stadium on Thursday night against Fresno. Tacoma is scheduled to start Forrest Snow (1-2, 1.31 ERA) against Fresno’s Jason Berken (8-8, 4.40).