Rainiers third baseman Patrick Kivlehan was having a rough week.
Mired in a 2-for-23 slump when he stepped up to the plate with two on and two out in the top of the 10th inning on Sunday night, Kivlehan was looking for something to hit hard.
Instead, he hit a shallow flare down the right field line — and it was enough to be the hero, as the ball fell in for a two-run double.
Tacoma defeated Salt Lake, 7-5, and has won the first three games of the four-game series.
Kivlehan had the opportunity because of a Salt Lake error. With one out in the 10th, Bees left fielder Nick Buss dropped Rob Brantly’s fly ball to give Tacoma a base runner. Dan Vogelbach’s two-out single brought Kivlehan to the plate when the inning should have been over.
Facing Bees reliever Alan Busenitz, Kivlehan lifted a shallow fly down the line. Bees right fielder Cal Towey had a great jump and attempted a diving catch, but smothered the ball with his glove. Brantly scored easily, and Vogelbach crossed the plate just before Towey’s throw arrived at home.
“That ball barely stayed fair, and it almost landed in (Towey’s) glove,” said Rainiers manager Pat Listach. “Kiv got the big hit.”
Tacoma improved to 58-42 on the season, reaching 16 games over .500 for the first time.
Vogelbach put the Rainiers on the scoreboard right away, launching a towering two-run homer to right field in the first inning. It was the second homer of the weekend for Vogelbach, who joined the team on Friday.
The Rainiers trailed 4-2 in the sixth inning when Zach Shank pulled a two-run double off the left field wall to tie it. Ryan Strausborger followed with a sacrifice fly to give Tacoma a 5-4 lead.
“We battled back,” Listach said. “Shank had another big hit — it seems like anytime we talk about a rally, Shank is in the middle of it.”
Salt Lake (47-52) evened things in the eighth against rehabilitating Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush. Rafael Ortega hit a long triple to right-center, and Ryan Jackson’s pinch-hit single with two outs drove him in.
Paul Fry (2-1) earned the win, retiring the side in order with two strikeouts in the ninth. Andrew Kittredge successfully navigated the bottom of the 10th to earn his second save.
Outfielder Guillermo Heredia is day-to-day after “jamming” his right shoulder while diving into first base on a pickoff throw in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. … D.J. Peterson was out of the lineup on a standard day off.
The series finishes with a 6:05 p.m. (Pacific) game on Monday. Tacoma starts right-hander Cody Martin (8-6, 3.91 ERA) against Salt Lake right-hander Kyle McGowin (4-7, 5.70).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.