Jesus Montero went into the Tacoma Rainiers’ game Thursday with the most hits in the Pacific Coast League.
He didn’t add to his total over his first four plate appearances. But with his fifth, he launched a two-run, walk-off home run in the 10th inning over the R Yard patio area in left field. And after circling the bases and heading for home, he was greeted there by his teammates celebrating a 4-3 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes at Cheney Stadium.
“The start wasn’t good. The start wasn’t good at all,” manager Pat Listach said. “The finish was as good as they come.”
The Rainiers fell behind early and late, and came back both times.
Their start was particularly ominous, as Albuquerque’s first run came in the first after leadoff hitter Tim Wheeler walked. He went to second on another walk, but continued around to third when catcher John Hicks threw to wildly to second, apparently unaware that a fourth ball had been called. Then Wheeler came home on a passed ball. By the time the inning ended, the Rainiers were down, 2-0.
“I feel like we gave them two runs in the first obviously,” Listach said. “And we shouldn’t have had to battle back the way we did. I’m pleased with that, but we have some things to work on.”
Albuquerque’s lead held until the third, when Franklin Gutierrez drove home a pair of runs with a bases-loaded single. That also extended his hitting streak to 16 games, best in the PCL.
The 2-2 score stuck until the top of the 10th, when the Isotopes broke through for a run against reliever Edgar Olmos on back-to-back doubles: Matt McBride to left, and Angelys Nina to right, scoring McBride.
That sent Tacoma into the bottom of the 10th needing at least a run. James Jones got a one-out single — his third hit of the night. Next up was Montero, who sent his ninth home run of the season towering into the night.
“What’s he got? Nine? Probably four or five of them look just like that,” Listach said. “He’s dedicated himself to making sure he’s a major leaguer. He’s doing everything in his power to get back to Seattle. I enjoy watching him succeed because I know what he’s been through. Good things happen to people who work hard, and he’s been working tremendously hard since the day I met him.”
The Rainiers (29-32) and Isotopes (26-35) continue their series at 7:05 p.m. at Cheney Stadium. Probable starting pitchers are Tacoma right-hander Justin Germano (5-2, 2.61 ERA) and Albuquerque left-hander John Lannan (2-1, 3.72). There will be a fireworks display after the game. The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808