Seattle Mariners

Tacoma Rainiers pull off third straight walk-off win

The Tacoma Rainiers could get used to this walk-off thing.

Xavier Nady ripped a single in the bottom of the 10th inning to break an 8-8 tie with the Oklahoma City RedHawks, giving the Rainiers a 9-8 victory in front of 2,245 fans at Cheney Stadium on Monday.

It was the Rainiers third straight walk-off win.

“I’m really proud of the way everyone keeps battling,” Roy Howell said. “Our rehab guys are battling, our younger guys are battling, and this whole last week the team effort has been outstanding.”

With the score 8-4 in the eighth, the cause seemed to be lost for the Rainiers. But then the Seattle Mariners’ Michael Saunders smacked a bases-clearing double to left, and scored in the next at-bat on a triple by Corey Hart.

Saunders, on rehab assignment for a shoulder injury, has played remarkably well in Triple-A. He’s batting .529 for the Rainiers, and has seven RBIs in four games. He says his shoulder feels fine, and he feels he’s ready to return to the major league roster.

Along with Saunders’ fellow Mariners Corey Hart and Justin Smoak, the rehabbers provided six of Tacoma’s eight runs on Monday.

“Hitting is contagious,” Saunders said. “The whole team’s hitting well right now, and we’re putting together some good at-bats.”

There were plenty of good at-bats on both sides Monday.

On a night where it seemed the cold front moving in brought with it a powerful ball-carrying jet stream located above right field at Cheney Stadium, the Rainiers and RedHawks combined for seven home runs and 31 hits.

Rainiers starting pitcher James Gillheeney gave up four of those homers over his five innings. The first came off a curve ball left high to LJ Hoes; No.’s 2 and 3 were back-to-back solo shots in the fourth, giving the RedHawks a 3-0 lead.

“Gilly left a couple of pitches high, and they were hitting line drives off the fence and over the fence,” Howell said.

But the RedHawks weren’t the only ones hitting four-baggers.

Nick Franklin hit a solo shot in the fourth and Chris Taylor scored to bring the Rainiers to within one, and Smoak hit his first home run with the Rainiers. Smoak is in Tacoma on a rehab assignment, nursing an injured quad. He had a rough start to the assignment, going 1-9 in his first ten at bats.

He finished 1-4 on the night with two RBIs and a strikeout.

The RedHawks pulled away again in the fifth, when Max Stassi scored. Stassi had knocked a deep shot to dead center and nearly had an inside-the-park home run, but held up at third and scored on a sacrifice fly the next at-bat.

A solo dinger by Matt Duffy, the seventh of the game, put Oklahoma City up 7-4, and another run added in the eighth gave the RedHawks what looked like an insurmountable lead.

In the 10th, Howell put Jabari Blash, in for Saunders, on first, and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk and a groundout moved Blash to third, where he was brought home with two outs to give the Rainiers a 3-0 series lead.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that like to compete,” Howell said. “When you’re competing and playing hard, good things happen.”

On Tap:

The Rainiers wrap-up an eight-game home stand, when they host the RedHawks on Tuesday. Tacoma will start righty Taijuan Walker (1-1, 5.82 ERA) against OKC’s David Martinez (5-4, 4.36 ERA. The game can be heard on 850-AM.