The Tacoma Rainiers team bus departed Cheney Stadium at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday for the drive to Sea-Tac Airport and the two-stage flight to Des Moines. So it was a bit surprising that when the Rainiers faced the Iowa Cubs on Thursday night, it was the home team that played the sloppy game.
Tacoma drew a season-high 10 walks and took advantage of a key Iowa mistake to claim a 5-3 victory in the opening game of an eight-game trip.
The game hinged on an infield pop-up in the third inning, and the infield fly rule came in to play.
Tacoma was looking to build on a 2-1 lead with Franklin Gutierrez at the plate and the bases loaded with no outs. Gutierrez popped up to the right side of the infield, and first base umpire Brett Terry signaled infield fly.
Iowa second baseman Javier Baez let the ball drop, Ketel Marte scored from third, and the Rainiers were left with runners at the corners. Pat Kivlehan followed with a run-scoring single to make it 4-1.
“Once the infield fly sign goes up, the batter is out and the base runners are on their own,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach, who said he thought that Baez let the ball drop on purpose to try to get a double play. “Marte did a great job of getting down the line and not just staying on the base. When the ball fell, he scored easily.”
Tacoma starter Mike Montgomery (4-3) made the lead stand up, surviving six innings and allowing three runs. It was his sixth quality start in eight outings this season.
“Montgomery had good stuff again, but his command was hit and miss,” said Listach. “But the three guys who came in from the bullpen were pretty good.”
That would be Tony Zych, Kevin Gregg, and DomDominic Leone — each of whom delivered a scoreless inning.
Zych pitched the seventh, working around a fly ball off the bat of Arismendy Alcantara that was lost in the twilight and fell in for a two-out triple.
New acquisition Gregg worked through the eighth inning on a strikeout, a walk, and a double play grounder.
Leone earned his first save of the season, setting down the side in the ninth. It was a much-needed easy inning for Leone, who has struggled with his command since being sent down by Seattle.
“A clean inning, and he threw the ball with better command than he has had,” Listach said.
Before the game, the Rainiers added catcher Jesus Sucre and relief pitchers Gregg and Edgar Olmos to the roster. Catcher John Baker was released after Tuesday’s game, reliever Rafael Pineda was transferred to Single-A Bakersfield, and reliever Yoervis Medina was traded to the Cubs. … Medina joined Iowa on Thursday and pitched 11/3 scoreless innings against the Rainiers.