If the Tacoma Rainiers are to make a late run for the playoffs, they may continue to need the dramatic finishes they’ve been getting on the current home stand. The Rainiers won in walk-off fashion for the third time in the previous four days on Aug. 19, as Carlos Peguero’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Abraham Almonte in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 1-0 win over Colorado Springs.
“Walk-offs are fun,” said Rainiers manager John Stearns. “We like to be at home, we like to be tied in extra innings and win the game. That’s always fun to get that walk-off.”
Rainiers starting pitcher Hector Noesi, who has struggled much of the season and came in with a 6.75 earned run average, put up one of his strongest performances in shutting out the Sky Sox over six innings, allowing just one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The only jam Noesi faced was in the top of the third, when he walked Lars Davis and Drew Garcia to lead off the inning, and they advanced to second and third with one out after a sacrifice. But left fielder Nate Tenbrink preserved the scoreless tie by ranging into foul territory to snag a fly ball and fire a strike to catcher Jason Jaramillo to nail Davis at home plate for a double play. Noesi went on to strike out four straight batters at one point from the fourth to fifth innings before Davis ended his no-hitter with a two-out double down the third-base line. But Noesi retired Garcia on a pop out to third to end that threat.
“He had fastball command,” Stearns said of Noesi. “That’s been a little iffy with him. He’s had a couple of good starts, and tonight was one of his best starts of the year. If he throws like that, we’ve got a pitcher there.”
The Rainiers had similar struggles against Colorado Springs starter Collin McHugh, managing just two singles – both by Almonte – through four innings. McHugh struck out five straight batters at one point from the fifth to seventh innings, and collected seven total strikeouts in those frames alone. The journeyman – who has pitched for two different major league clubs and three minor league clubs this season alone – finished with seven innings pitched, allowing three hits and a walk with nine strikeouts.
The Rainiers got strong relief pitching from Jonathan Arias, Bobby LaFromboise and Logan Bawcom, who escaped a second-and-third threat with one out in the top of the tenth by striking out Hernan Iribarren and Reid Brignac. The offense then mounted its winning rally when Almonte – who finished 3-for-4 – drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the 11th, Tenbrink followed with a single and Ty Kelly walked to load the bases. Peguero then smashed a chopper to short and beat out the throw at first base to prevent the double play, allowing Almonte to score the winning run.
The win put the Rainiers at 69-61 overall on the season, inching them to within five games of the first-place Salt Lake Bees. The Rainiers are set to host the Bees from Aug. 26-29 at Cheney Stadium, with all games taking place at 7 p.m.
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