The Tacoma Rainiers managed a four-game series split with the Memphis Redbirds, coming out on top of a 13-7 Pacific Coast League slugfest Wednesday at Cheney Stadium.
First baseman Ji-Man Choi led the way offensively for the Rainiers with a career-high seven RBIs. The South Korea native went 4 for 4 — including a first-inning grand slam — and scored twice, coming up a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
The most important runs Choi delivered came in the fourth inning with the game tied at 7. His line-drive single to right scored Shawn O’Malley, who led off with a single, and Stefen Romero, who had doubled.
It was redemption of sorts for Choi, who was partially responsible for the tied score.
After two innings, the Rainiers built what looked to be a safe, 7-0 lead as starter Tyler Olson had struck out four of the first six batters he faced. Then it started to unravel.
Memphis, with help from the Rainiers and only two hits, scored seven runs in the third to tie the game.
Jeremy Hazelbaker’s three-run home run highlighted the inning for the Redbirds, but it was Choi who couldn’t handle a routine infield pop-up for an error that allowed the tying two runs to score. It was one of three errors in the inning by Tacoma — two by shortstop Chris Taylor on the same play.
The Rainiers raced to a 4-0 first-inning lead that featured only one hit — Choi’s grand slam. O’Malley and Taylor led off with walks, and Romero was hit by pitch, loading the bases. After an out, Choi jumped on the first pitch from Redbirds starter Arturo Reyes, launching the ball over the right-field fence
Tacoma went back to work in the second inning. Daniel Paolini and O’Malley reached base, the latter with a double. Romero followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Paolini, and Patrick Kivlehan delivered an RBI double. Choi then went back to work with an RBI single.
Tacoma tacked on two runs in the fifth and sixth to put the game out of reach.
After an 0-for-4 night Tuesday, Romero went 1 for 3 with two runs scored and two RBIs. … O’Malley was impressive from the leadoff spot, going 3 for 4, with a walk and four runs scored. … Leury Bonilla tagged his fourth home run of the season — a two-run shot in the sixth inning that extended the Rainiers’ lead to 13-7.
The Rainiers open a four-game series against the Nashville Sounds at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Cheney Stadium. The Rainiers will start right-hander Forrest Snow (9-8, 3.97 ERA) from the University of Washington. Nashville counters with right-hander Nathan Long (3-4, 5.17).