ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If the Tacoma Rainiers spend the entire 2016 season in contention for the division title, we’ll be able to look back on Sunday’s game as the day we knew that the team was a winner.
Trailing 5-0 going into the fifth inning, the Rainiers rallied with three home runs for a dramatic 7-6 win at Isotopes Park.
Efren Navarro hit the game-tying RBI single with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, and his two-out, opposite-field home run in the ninth gave the Rainiers the 7-6 lead.
Tacoma was unable to cash in on terrific scoring opportunities in the first, third and fourth innings while falling behind five runs. The Rainiers had runners in scoring position — twice at third base — with fewer than two outs in each of those innings, but netted nothing.
Never miss a local story.
After allowing five runs over the first three innings, Rainiers starter Donn Roach retired 10 consecutive batters and pitched into the seventh while Tacoma made its comeback.
Chris Taylor’s bunt single ended the drought in the fifth, bringing home Tyler Smith from third base. Stefen Romero followed with a two-run homer to left-center, and suddenly it was 5-3.
“One of the biggest plays of the game was the Taylor bunt,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach. “Man on third, one out, it was a perfect bunt, and it gave Romero a chance to hit a homer to pull us within striking distance.”
Swinging a pink Mother’s Day bat, Daniel Robertson pulled his first homer of the season to left field in the sixth inning, and it was 5-4.
An Albuquerque error opened the door for two Tacoma runs in the top of the seventh, both scoring with two outs. Navarro’s ground-ball base hit to right tied the game, and a single by Shawn O’Malley scored Mike Zunino to give Tacoma a 6-5 lead.
The Isotopes tied it in the bottom of the seventh, when Joey Wong greeted reliever Kraig Sitton with a line-drive double to right, scoring Cody Decker.
That set the stage for Navarro in the ninth. Navarro hit the first pitch he saw from Simon Castro over the left-field fence for his first home run of the year.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Navarro. “The whole series I’ve been getting beat inside by fastballs. He threw a fastball middle away, and I put a good swing on it.”
The win was Tacoma’s seventh in the past eight games, and it gave the Rainiers a Pacific Conference-best record of 18-12.
The series in Albuquerque concludes at
10:05 a.m. Monday. Tacoma RHP Joe Wieland (2-3, 12.54 ERA) will face rehabilitating Colorado Rockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa, who is recovering from a groin injury.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers