The Tacoma Rainiers used the speed skills of James Jones and Jesus Montero to beat Fresno, 8-7, on Tuesday night and earn a split of the four-game series against the first-place Grizzlies.
Yes, the speed of Montero.
Batting in the leadoff spot, Jones reached base three times, stole three bases, and scored three times. Two spots behind him in the lineup, Montero laced a pair of triples, had three hits, and drove in four runs.
The slimmed-down Montero hit two long drives to right-center field, easily reaching third base both times. Right-center is the deepest part of the field at Fresno’s Chukchansi Park, with the fence an estimated 420 feet from home plate.
It was the first two-triple game of Montero’s career, and his five triples on the season is a single-season career high.
Second-place Tacoma jumped to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, stringing together hits against Fresno starter Mike Hauschild.
In his return to the Rainiers’ starting rotation, Roenis Elias retired the first six batters he faced. But Fresno got to him in the next two innings, scoring four times to tighten the game.
Elias exited after 42/3 innings, having thrown 75 pitches. He left with a 6-4 lead.
Tacoma took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, but made two errors on the same play to allow a pair of runs to score.
Fresno’s Matt Duffy singled, and Domingo Santana followed with an apparent double-play grounder to shortstop. But Leury Bonilla’s throw to second was wild and went into right field. Duffy tried to score when a relay to the plate was overthrown, but pitcher Logan Kensing was backing up and grabbed the ball. Kensing chased Duffy back toward third, but Santana was standing there — and he headed back to second. Kensing overthrew second base, Duffy scored, and Santana went to third.
Santana scored on Tyler White’s groundout, making it 7-6.
Montero tripled home Jones with an important insurance run in the top of the eighth, prior to Fresno scoring in the bottom of the inning.
Tacoma used Tom Wilhelmsen in the ninth inning, and he worked around a one-out walk to secure his first career Triple-A save. He has 54 in the majors.
Tacoma catcher Steve Baron went 2 for 4, extending his hitting streak to six games. He has 10 hits during the streak. … former Tacoma Rainiers shortstop Ramon Vazquez was in Fresno, working as a Houston Astros infield instructor. Vazquez played for Tacoma’s PCL championship teams in 2001 and 2010.
The Rainiers open a five-game series at Reno at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Tacoma will start Jordan Pries (3-2, 5.65) against Reno’s Justin Marks (5-6, 5.20).