The Tacoma Rainiers suffered an agonizing loss Saturday night.
The Rainiers scored six runs in the top of the second inning for a 7-2 lead, and wasted that five-run cushion — including a two-run advantage with four outs remaning — in a 8-7 loss to the Las Vegas 51s.
With Rainiers reliever J.C. Ramirez on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning, the 51s put runners on first and second with two outs. Danny Muno then bounced a ground ball off third baseman Leury Bonilla’s glove into shallow left field as Travis Taijeron scored from second base for the Las Vegas win in front of 9,290 at Cashman Field.
To top it off, Tacoma (66-76) left nine runners stranded on base.
Las Vegas (77-65), which is fighting for the Pacific Southern Division title with El Paso, is now tied for first place with two games remaining.
In the eighth with the Rainiers leading by two runs and two outs with the bases loaded, Las Vegas’ Dilson Herrera singled up the middle against Ramirez and his 99 mile per hour fastball to tie it at 7.
“They put together a pretty good two-out inning rally,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “Herrera has had a lot of good success against us. He’s a good little player. He stole a couple bases against us here. I think (the Mets) should call him right now.”
Jesus Montero, who went 2 for 4, hit a three-run homer to left in the second inning to lead the Rainiers. Montero reached base three times and extended his hitting streak to nine games.
James Jones, who went 2 for 2 with two runs scored and two RBIs, reached base four times. Jones had a two-run single to left in the second off Las Vegas starter Darin Gorski, who lasted just 1 2/3 innings.
During his streak, Montero is hitting .559 (19 for 34) with 11 runs and 14 RBIs.
“That was a big home run for us,” Listach said. “But we didn’t play a clean game. When you’re giving a team more than three outs in an inning, you usually give up a crooked number.”
After giving up four runs in the first two innings, Rainiers starter Mike Montgomery settled down, only allowing a seventh-inning run. Montgomery was pulled in the seventh after surrendering a leadoff double and then an infield bunt single.
Montgomery pitched into the seventh inning, allowing six hits, five runs (four earned), three walks, while striking out six on 108 pitches.
In the eighth, Sam Gaviglio retired the first two batters, before loading the bases as Listach brought in Ramirez to face Herrera.
The Rainiers play the 51s Sunday at 7:05 p.m. in the second of a four-game series, which will end the season. Tacoma RHP Chien-Ming Wang (3-5, 6.00 ERA) will face RHP Logan Verett (4-2, 3.67). The game can be heard on 850-AM.