One team got four clutch hits in the late innings, and the other got none.
That’s the simplest way to describe how Round Rock picked up a 5-2 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers on Sunday.
Tacoma took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning stretch, riding a strong start by James Gillheeney. Gillheeney scattered six hits and three walks, generally staying out of trouble.
Logan Kensing entered the game to begin the bottom of the seventh, and picked up two quick outs sandwiched around a single.
With a runner at second base and two outs, Jared Hoying hit a sharp grounder past Justin Smoak for a single to right, tying the game 2-2.
Then Ryan Rua drove a deep fly to right-center, just barely getting the ball over the glove of leaping center fielder Xavier Avery for a go-ahead RBI double.
The Express wasn’t done. Michael Choice grounded an 0-2 pitch into right field for an RBI single, and he scored on a triple by Tomas Telis.
All told, it was four consecutive two-out RBI hits for the Express, who took a 5-2 lead.
“We didn’t put them away with two outs,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “That happens. You tip your hat to those guys; they got the two-out hits.”
Tacoma immediately had a chance to get back in the game in the eighth. The Rainiers loaded the bases with no outs against Round Rock reliever Corey Knebel, as Leury Bonilla singled, Gabriel Noriega was hit by a pitch, and Michael Saunders walked.
Knebel somehow escaped without allowing a run. After falling behind 2-0 in the count, he battled back to strike out Avery. Then he struck out Stefen Romero, and got Smoak to fly out to end the inning.
“That guy was dealing,” Howell said about Knebel. “He was throwing 95 miles an hour, and then he started throwing his breaking ball.”
Romero went 2-for-4, extending his stretch of hot hitting with his fourth consecutive multiple-hit game. He tied the game with an RBI single in the fourth.
Smoak gave Tacoma a 2-1 lead with a two-out single that drove in Avery in the sixth inning, but the lead did not hold up.
The Rainiers activated reliever Carson Smith from the disabled list, and released pitcher Matt Palmer. The 35-year-old Palmer went 2-8 with a 5.42 ERA in 18 appearances (13 starts). … Romero’s two-homer game on Saturday was his third of the season. He’s the first Tacoma Rainiers player to have three multiple-homer games in one season since Alex Liddi had four in 2011. Romero has done it in just 25 games.
The series continues with a 5:05 p.m. game Monday. Tacoma starts right-hander Jordan Pries (8-6, 3.95 ERA) against left-hander Edwar Cabrera (1-1, 4.50).