Stefen Romero’s grand slam with one out capped a five-run ninth inning as the Tacoma Rainiers rallied to beat the Fresno Grizzlies, 13-10, on Saturday night at Cheney Stadium.
With poor defense in the eighth and ninth innings, the Rainiers had let an 8-5 lead turn into a 10-8 deficit heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Nate Tenbrink and Xavier Avery hit back-to-back singles to start the inning, and Jesus Montero walked to load the bases.
A walk to Michael Saunders cut the deficit to 10-9, and James Jones struck out.
Romero then connected off Fresno reliever Erik Cordier for a homer to left field to win the game.
Saunders had a good night — 3-for-4 with a run batted in and a walk — and that’s a positive sign after two relatively quiet rehabilitation starts with the Rainiers.
His performance Saturday could indicate that he’s one step closer to returning to the Seattle Mariners, for whom he appeared in 65 games this season.
The rest of the Rainiers’ offense was impressive, too. But their defense down the stretch … not so much.
With an 8-7 lead and two outs in the eighth, Rainiers third baseman Nate Tenbrink committed and error on a throw to first baseman Justin Smoak, who couldn’t corral the ball as it bounced out of his glove and allowed a pair of runs to put Fresno ahead.
Rainiers right-handed reliever Todd Coffey, who typically has been dominant this season, allowed a run in the top of the ninth on two hits and a walk.
Tacoma had 17 hits, and six players had multi-hit nights. Second baseman Ty Kelly was 2-for-4 with one RBI — his career-high 71st of the season — and is batting .420 in his past 10 games.
Smoak, who was 3-for-4, and Tenbrink each drove in two runs. Romero finished with three hits, including a triple in the fifth.
The Rainiers jumped on Fresno left-hander Mike Kickham for three hits and two runs in the first inning. They added six runs on eight hits in the fourth and fifth innings to take an 8-5 lead.
Smoak drove in the first run for Tacoma with a line drive down the left-field line to score Jones. Kelly tripled on a deep shot to center field to score Smoak.
Tacoma left-hander James Gillheeney allowed four runs in the second inning.
Right-handed reliever Andrew Carraway allowed a two-run homer in the seventh inning as Fresno pulled within 8-7.
In three games with Tacoma, Saunders has gone 5-for-9 with one RBI, five walks, two strikeouts and one run scored. He is recovering from a left oblique strain that landed him on the Mariners’ disabled list on July 11.
The Rainiers continue their five-game homestand against Fresno at 1:35 p.m. Sunday. Tacoma is scheduled to start right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker (4-3, 5.44 ERA) against right-hander Chris Heston (10-6, 3.53). The game can be heard on 850-AM.