The hits were hard to come by on Monday afternoon, so a leadoff walk and some small ball decided the game.
Stephen Cardullo’s sacrifice fly scored Brandon Barnes with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, leading Albuquerque to a 4-3 win over Tacoma in the final game of a four-game series. The series was split, two wins apiece.
Typically one of the best ballparks for hitters in the Pacific Coast League, Isotopes Park played quite differently on Monday. Albuquerque had just one hit after the second inning, and the Rainiers did not get a hit after the fifth.
“Nine hits between the two teams with the wind blowing out in Albuquerque?” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “Not a typical game here.”
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It was fitting, then, that the winning run scored without a hit.
With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Tacoma reliever Jonathan Aro walked Barnes on a full-count pitch to lead off the inning.
The following hitter – Mike Tauchman – squared around to sacrifice bunt. Aro’s pitch rode inside on Tauchman, and the ball went through to the backstop. Tauchman thought he was hit by the pitch, but the umpires thought nobody touched it – and it was a live ball.
“It kind of blinded (catcher Mike) Zunino a little bit, and Tauchman thought it hit him,” Listach said. “The umpire said it didn’t hit him. Zunino missed the ball, so obviously it hit something. Maybe we caught a break.”
Barnes took second on what was scored a passed ball. Tauchman then got the bunt down, sending Barnes to third, and Cardullo’s fly ball to center was deep enough to score the go-ahead run.
“They executed the bunt, they executed the sac fly, and that was the end of the game,” Listach said.
The Isotopes scored three runs with two outs in the second inning against Rainiers starter Joe Wieland. A bases-loaded walk to Daniel Descalso forced in one, and Barnes hit a two-run single. Wieland then retired the next 12 batters to come to the plate, making it through six full innings.
Tacoma scored two runs in the third inning against rehabilitating Colorado Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, making it 3-2.
In the fifth, the Rainiers tied the game – and little did they know it would be their last scoring opportunity of the day.
Chris Taylor led off with an opposite field triple against reliever Matt Flemer, and two walks loaded the bases with one out.
Mike Baxter singled sharply to right field, scoring Taylor with the tying run and keeping the bases loaded. But Flemer escaped the jam with no more runs scoring, and the Rainiers did not get a hit the rest of the way.
The road trip moves on to Fresno, where Tacoma opens a four-game series against the defending PCL champions on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. Tacoma starts Cody Martin (4-2, 6.75) against Fresno’s Brady Rodgers (1-2, 3.60).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.