On Wednesday night the Tacoma Rainiers lost their fourth straight game – each by one run – and for the first time they could blame bad luck.
Albuquerque scored the winning run on a broken-bat roller in the bottom of the eighth inning and survived two hard-hit balls in the ninth to hang on for a 7-6 Pacific Coast League victory.
Tacoma (2-5) needs a win on Thursday to avoid a four-game series sweep.
Trailing most of the night, Tacoma tied the game in the top of the eighth inning, when Franklin Gutierrez lined a double off the base of the wall in right field, scoring James Jones and Ketel Marte to make it 6-6.
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The Isotopes rallied in the bottom of the eighth, when Tacoma’s Joe Saunders hit Ben Paulsen with a pitch to start the inning. After two failed bunt attempts, Angelys Nina hit a two-strike single to right-center, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Saunders struck out Tim Wheeler for the first out.
With catcher Ryan Casteel at the plate, Tacoma played double play depth and hoped for a grounder to get out of the inning.
Saunders jammed Casteel and broke his bat — resulting in a slow grounder that second baseman Marte had to charge to field. He could only get one out on the play as Paulsen scored the go-ahead run.
“You can’t play the infield in there and open up bigger holes, so we played double play depth and the ball wasn’t hit hard enough for us to turn it,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “It’s amazing how you can hit balls hard and they can be outs and then you can hit a ball like that and get a game winner.”
That was never more evident than in the top of the ninth, when Carlos Rivero drew a leadoff walk against reliever Jairo Diaz. John Baker followed with a hard liner right to the left fielder for an out, and then Jabari Blash smoked a bullet right to third baseman Joey Wong, who started a game-ending double play.
It was a disappointing night for the Rainiers, who took advantage of wildness from Albuquerque starter Jon Gray to score four runs in the top of the first. The lead lasted only a few minutes, as the Isotopes scored five runs on five hits in the bottom of the first against Tacoma starter Roenis Elias.
“Elias came out and didn’t have command, and let them right back in the game,” Listach said. “After the first inning, he pitched great.”
Elias (1-1) lasted 52/3 innings, giving up eight hits and six runs.
Both teams played in special jerseys with Negro Leagues team logos in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Listach’s grandfather, Nora Listach, played in the Negro Leagues. … Outfielder Stefen Romero missed his second straight game with back tightness. … The Rainiers announced that Edgar Martinez will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the home opener on Friday.
The trip wraps up with a day game Thursday at 11:05 a.m. (PDT). Tacoma starts Sam Gaviglio (1-0, 0.00) against Albuquerque’s John Lannan (0-0, 0.00).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.