Seattle Mariners

With starter Erik Swanson called up by Seattle, Rainiers turn bullpen day into walk-off win in home opener

Tacoma Rainiers players head for the dugout after batting practice before their home opener against the El Paso Chihuahuas at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma on Tuesday, April 9, 2019.
Tacoma Rainiers players head for the dugout after batting practice before their home opener against the El Paso Chihuahuas at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. toverman@theolympian.com

Tuesday night’s home opener didn’t play out as planned for the Tacoma Rainiers.

Right-hander Erik Swanson, who was scheduled to start, was called up by the Seattle Mariners earlier in the day, and immediately joined the big-league club on the road in Kansas City.

“Felix (Hernandez) going down yesterday, only one inning, led to our guy today going up to help,” Rainiers manager Daren Brown said ahead of the game. “So, we’ll try to put it together tonight and try to get through it.”

Brown opted not to further disrupt Tacoma’s starting rotation, instead turning to his bullpen. The committee approach worked, with five Tacoma relievers combining to allow five hits in a 5-4 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas at Cheney Stadium.

“We knew coming in today was going to be a bullpen day for everyone,” reliever Tayler Scott said. “Everyone was prepared to go multiple innings.”

Matt Tenuta worked the first two innings, allowing a pair of solo home runs to Ty France and Jose Pirela, but those were the only two hits El Paso recorded before the eighth inning.

Penn Murfee struck out four in his two innings of work. Scott pitched three frames, retiring all nine batters he faced — including striking out six — and was in line for the win until the Chihuahuas tied the game in the top of the ninth.

Robinson Leyer’s fastball touched 97 mph on a chilly night, but he walked a pair of batters in the eighth, and allowed one run on a two-out single by Pirela, which cut the Rainiers’ lead to 4-3.

Nick Rumbelow (1-0, 9.82 ERA) eventually earned the win, but also recorded his second blown save since he was optioned to Tacoma last Wednesday.

He struck out three in the ninth, but Jason Vosler reached base on a third-strike wild pitch that got past catcher David Freitas. Vosler scored the tying run on a two-out single by Josh Naylor.

“A tie game is not what we want when we’ve had to use most of our bullpen to get to that point,” Brown said. “But, we come out, loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth and got it done.”

Tito Polo hit the game-winning single after the Rainiers loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Freitas walked to open the inning, Austin Nola singled and Tim Lopes was hit by a pitch. Seattle’s No. 8 prospect, Shed Long, who initially had the day off, scored the winning run as a pinch-runner for Freitas.

“We’ve lost some tough ones on the road, so it’s good to win one like that,” Brown said.

BISHOP EXTENDS STREAK

Center fielder Braden Bishop, the No. 9 prospect in the Mariners’ organization, tied the game for the first time with a two-out double down the third-base line in the fifth.

“He’s giving us a quality at-bat about every time he goes up, and obviously he got a big hit there for us tonight,” Brown said.

Bishop, who advanced to third on a throw home following his double, scored on Eric Young Jr.’s squeeze bunt to give the Rainiers a 3-2 lead.

Bishop extended his hitting streak to six games with the double. His five doubles in six games lead the Pacific Coast League, and his 10 hits rank tied for second in the league.

“I think the biggest thing is not putting too much on the level change,” said Bishop, who played the 2018 season in Double-A Arkansas. “The biggest thing for me is finding my productivity in my daily routine and not my results.”

Bishop, a University of Washington product, was making a return to Cheney Stadium after playing several games there with the Huskies in 2013.

“I got some rain and cold at Cheney, so it was pretty familiar tonight,” he said.

SCOTT STRIKES OUT SIX

After being signed as a free agent during the offseason, Scott has impressed in his first two relief outings with the Rainiers.

His 1.80 ERA is the third-lowest among PCL pitchers who have appeared in more than one game. In five innings, Scott has allowed just one earned run on three hits.

Tuesday night, the 26-year-old right-hander pitched three innings, allowed no runs on no hits, walked none, and fanned six. Scott, who said he’s often functioned as a long reliever in his career, said his slider was working particularly well.

“That was my swing-and-miss pitch tonight,” he said. “Once I was able to get ahead in the count, that was my put away.”

A Johannesburg, South Africa native, Scott said he discovered baseball when he was about 10 years old. He primarily played cricket, rugby and soccer growing up, but decided to shift his focus mainly to baseball as a teenager.

“I started getting pretty good at it, and I realized that’s where I wanted to be, and come be in America and play,” Scott said.

He arrived in the United States when he was 16, and played high school baseball at Arizona’s Notre Dame Prep. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round in 2011, but has yet to make his MLB debut.

SHORT HOPS

Designated hitter Jose Lobaton launched his second home run in as many days with a solo shot to left in the second. The homer, which was Tacoma’s first run of the game, appeared to leave the stadium and land in the Foss High School parking lot. Lobaton hit a three-run homer in Monday’s extra-innings loss in Sacramento. ... The Rainiers are celebrating their 60th season in Cheney Stadium, and had “60” mowed into the grass in center field Tuesday. There were 4,174 fans in attendance for the home opener. ... El Paso right-hander Eric Yardley, a Richland native, did not pitch Tuesday, but is in his seventh season playing minor-league baseball. He has appeared in three games for the Chihuahuas this season.

ON TAP

The Rainiers (2-4) host El Paso (1-5) in the second game of a three-game series at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday. Tacoma lefty Tommy Malone (0-0, 11.25) is scheduled to meet Chihuahuas’ left-hander Logan Allen (0-1, 27.00). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.

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