Jesus Sucre nearly killed his manager.
Seconds later, he put the dagger deeper into Reno’s quickly disappearing Pacific Coast League playoff hopes.
Sucre’s two-run double in the sixth inning was the game’s biggest hit as Tacoma finished off Fresno, 5-0, on Wednesday night at Cheney Stadium.
Coupled with Reno’s loss at Sacramento, the Rainiers’ magic number in clinching the PCL Pacific Northern title is down to one game.
All Tacoma has to do to clinch the divisional title, and go to the PCL playoffs for the first time since 2010, is beat the Grizzlies in the series finale Thursday — or have the Aces lose again at Sacramento.
“Big night,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “Those are the same (Fresno) players who won the division last year. That was a big game. We came out and put zeroes up.”
The Rainiers got a big assist Wednesday from the Houston Astros — Fresno’s parent club.
The Rainiers were scheduled to face Brady Rodgers, the PCL pitcher of the year for 2016. But since the Astros are expected to call up Rodgers sometime after Thursday, the right-hander worked only two innings.
As soon as Rodgers left the game, the Rainiers took a 1-0 lead on Dan Vogelbach’s RBI groundout in the third inning.
It stayed that way until the sixth, when Tacoma sent eight hitters to the plate against two Fresno relievers.
And in his at-bat with the bases loaded, Sucre turned on a Kevin Chapman pitch, and sent a screamer directly toward Listach, who was standing in the third-base box.
Listach barely got out of the way — but did, eyes closed. After he composed himself, he shot a startled look at the veteran catcher, who got a chuckle out of the sequence.
“It went right by my face,” Listach said. “I have no idea how (it didn’t hit me). When I got up, he was dying laughing.
“I thought he killed me.”
Two pitches later, Sucre sent a scorching line drive in Listach’s direction again — only this time it was fair, just inside the left field line, for a two-run double and a 4-0 Rainiers lead.
“I talked to (Rainiers hitting coach Scott) Brosius about that guy (Chapman), and a couple days before he pitched, he threw a lot of sliders,” Sucre said. “He hung that pitch (slider), and I put a good swing on it.”
Sucre added a run-scoring single in the eighth inning to collect a season-high three RBIs.
Joe Wieland picked up his 13th victory of the season for the Rainiers, throwing five scoreless innings. He struck out eight batters.
Slugger Stefen Romero (hand) sat out his second consecutive game Wednesday after being hit by a pitch Monday. Listach said the right-handed hitter is taking new medication to hopefully clear up the discomfort. … Vogelbach extended his on-base streak to 27 games with a sixth-inning walk. It is the team’s longest streak since Chris Taylor went 30 games in 2014. Vogelbach’s on-base percentage during the span is .463. … Wieland (109), Cody Martin (106 strikeouts) and Cody Lee (102) are the first Tacoma trio to strike out 100 or more batters in the same season since 2006, when Francisco Cruceta, Rich Dorman and Cha Seung Baek accomplished the feat. … The series finale against Fresno is the organization’s final “Thirsty Thursday” promotion of the season.
The Rainiers and Fresno wrap up their four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. Right-hander Jarrett Grube (1-4, 3.93 ERA) will go for Tacoma. Right-hander David Paulino (0-2, 6.00) pitches for the Grizzlies. The game can be heard on 850-AM.