On a personal level, every member of the Tacoma Rainiers’ clubhouse was ecstatic for Cody Martin’s call-up to the big leagues Saturday.
But with their scheduled starting pitcher gone, the Rainiers were left in a bind scrambling for other options.
What did they do?
They relied on late-game magic from their bats.
Trailing much of the game, the Rainiers rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to trip up Albuquerque, 7-6, in front of 6,716 at Cheney Stadium on Saturday night.
The Rainiers won their third game in a row, and eighth in their past 10.
Trailing 6-2, Stefen Romero’s two-run single in the seventh inning capped a three-run rally.
And in the ninth, pinch hitter Dario Pizzano led off with a single to right field, and the comeback was on.
David Robertson walked. With one out, Romero was intentionally walked to get to Dan Vogelbach, who was mired in a 1-for-18 slump.
Taking close pitches, and fending off a couple of high 96 mph fastballs, Vogelbach got a pitch he could handle, and lined it into right field.
Pizzano easily scored, and Robertson just beat the tag at home plate to give Tacoma its seventh walkoff win of the season.
It has been a crazy 24 hours for the Rainiers.
After the game Friday, Tacoma manager Pat Listach knew what was in the works. So he sat down with pitching coach Lance Painter to assess who would be the best candidate to start among left-handers Kraig Sitton, David Rollins and Fry, and newcomer Robert Dugger, who was promoted from the Arizona League after being drafted out of Texas Tech last spring.
“We talked about it until late last night — and early (Saturday),” Listach said.
Listach settled on Sitton, an Oregon State University product who made his first professional start in his 293rd game in the minor leagues.
The biggest reason was that Sitton was a fresh arm, having been off for four days.
Restricted to 45 pitches, Sitton went three full innings, giving up one earned run. It was pretty much what Listach wanted on short notice.
Unfortunately, Albuquerque got to Kevin Munson for five runs — four coming in the fifth inning to grab a 6-2 lead.
TOUGH HOME STRETCH
Vogelbach insists he likes the confines of Cheney Stadium — even though he had one hit in this homestand before the game-winner Saturday night.
“I am glad this is my home,” Vogelbach said.
Acquired by Seattle in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on July 20, the first baseman’s only hit was an infield single against El Paso on Thursday.
“I feel like I am having good at-bats, but just not getting hits,” Vogelbach said. “It has happened multiple times in my career, and this isn’t going to be the last time. I am going to stay with what I am doing.
“I am not worried about it at all.”
It is Robertson’s turn to ignite the Rainiers lineup — and he is doing a good job at it as the team’s new full-time leadoff hitter.
Since his demotion from Seattle on July 19, Robertson has a hit in all 10 games he’s played. He is hitting .340 with eight runs and seven RBI.
“He has been around, knows how to play the game, knows how to run the bases, knows how to get on base and knows when to be aggressive,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said.
With only one off-day remaining — Aug. 11 — including the doubleheader Thursday, the Rainiers are slated to play 54 games in 54 days to close out the season. Listach isn’t happy about it, either. “Someone higher up needs to look at the schedule,” he said. … A night after the “Paint the Park Purple” promotion honoring the University of Washington-Tacoma, the Rainiers held “Color Cheney Crimson” for Washington State University fans. Former WSU greats Mkristo Bruce and DaVonte Lacy, a Curtis High School product, threw footballs into the grandstands between innings.
The four-game series with Albuquerque continues Sunday. Right-hander Jarrett Grube (1-2, 4.46 ERA) pitches for Tacoma. Right-hander Christian Bergman (1-3, 5.20) goes for the Isotopes. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m. All action can be heard on 850-AM.