Rainiers Win With Savvy Finish

Danny Hultzen and Dan Straily locked up in a pitcher’s duel last night at Cheney Stadium – and then the Tacoma and Sacramento bullpens were even more impressive, resulting in the longest Rainiers game in 13 years and no decision until this morning.

Tacoma beat Sacramento 2-1 in an 18-inning game that started on Wednesday night and ended at 12:40 AM on Thursday morning.

Hultzen had his best outing as a member of the Rainiers, going six innings and allowing two hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts. He gave up one run, on a solo home run to Jermaine Mitchell to lead off the sixth inning.

Hultzen had tremendous command of all of his pitches for the first five innings. Both of his walks came in the sixth inning, after an error put a man on with one out.

Once the bases were loaded, Hultzen uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop – but Brandon Bantz picked up the ball, threw home, and Hultzen tagged out Collin Cowgill trying to score. Hultzen even used his legs to block the plate on the play, preventing Cowgill from reaching the dish as he slid in feet-first.

Straily actually out-pitched Hultzen. The minor league leader in strikeouts allowed a two-out double to Mike Carp in the first inning – and then no more hits until the ninth. He worked 90-94 with his fastball, but his change-up was a real killer.

He had exactly 100 pitches going to the ninth and they left him in to see if he could finish it, but Darren Ford greeted him with a double and that was it for Straily. Rich Thompson came in from the bullpen, and Nick Franklin bunted Ford to third, and Carp hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.

Extra innings, here we come. Now we’re going bullet-points style:

  • It was Tacoma’s fourth extra-innings game in six days.
  • The night before, the Rainiers and River Cats played 13 innings in 4 hours, 43 minutes – the longest game of the year for both teams, and Tacoma’s longest game since 2008. As the tenth inning started, we had no idea those marks were going to get destroyed.
  • Tacoma’s bullpen pitched 12 shutout innings.
  • Sacramento’s bullpen pitched 9.1 shutout innings – clearly, not enough.
  • The Rainiers relievers had a couple of heroics. The first one came from David Pauley in the eighth inning, getting Michael Taylor to ground into a double play to escape a bases loaded, one out jam and keep the score 1-0.
  • Bobby LaFromboise had the biggest single pitch in the game: he relieved Pauley with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the tenth, to face clean-up man Kila Ka’aihue. LaFromboise got Ka’aihue to hit the second pitch right to Franklin, who started an easy-as-pie 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
  • LaFromboise pitched 3.1 scoreless innings – his longest outing of the year. He lowered his ERA to 1.47. He’ll need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft after this season.
  • Steven Hensley relieved Bobby, and he had a life-affirming outing. After taking the loss by surrendering a home run in each of the last three extra-innings games, Hensley pitched 4.1 shutout innings, allowing just two hits. No runners made it past first base with Hensley on the mound.
  • Still, Tacoma did not score.
  • The Rainiers had the leadoff batter reach base in the 11th, 12th, 13th, 16th, and 17th innings without scoring.
  • By the 18th, Tacoma was out of pitching. Brian Moran, Chance Ruffin and Jeff Marquez were unused – but they each had a long, multiple-inning outing the day before (Ruffin and Marquez each went three innings in the 13-inning game, and Moran went two).
  • The only other unused pitcher was Scott Patterson, who is out for a few days due to a sore arm.
  • So, after 17 innings, Tacoma was out of pitching – and so was Sacramento.
  • Scott Savastano was the first position player to pitch. He started the game on the bench, went in to play first base in the top of the 13th, and moved to the mound for the 18th.
  • Savastano had pitched three times previously in his career, all at Double-A Jackson last year. He entered the game with a career 0.00 ERA in 3.1 innings, but he took a loss due to an unearned run at Jackson last year.
  • Savastano pitched a 1-2-3 top of the 18th, getting help from a terrific catch by center fielder Darren Ford.
  • Sacramento brought in outfielder Shane Peterson to pitch the bottom of the 18th. He was a pitcher at Long Beach State, but had not pitched professionally.
  • Peterson, a left-hander, struck out Nick Franklin on three straight 91 mph fastballs.
  • Savastano ended it with a long homer to left field, giving Tacoma a 2-1 win. Here is a silent video of Savastano’s game-winning home run, and thanks to the Seattle Times we have my radio call right here.
  • Savastano was the first Tacoma position player to pitch in a game since infielder Brant Ust pitched at Fresno on April 9, 2007.
  • Savastano earned the win. He is the first Tacoma position player to earn a victory since shortstop Thad Reece picked up a win for the Tacoma Tigers in 1987.
  • No Tacoma position player has had a decision on the mound since outfielder Chad Alexander took a loss for the Rainiers at Fresno on August 25, 2000.
  • Sacramento’s Michael Taylor entered the game on a tear, carrying a 12-game hitting streak. He proceeded to go 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and finished the game in a slump.
  • We were just ten minutes away from reaching the PCL curfew: no inning can start after 12:50 AM. At that point, the game is suspended and continued the next day.
  • Clocking in a 5 hours, 32 minutes, it was the longest game in terms of time in Tacoma’s PCL history, dating to the construction of Cheney Stadium in 1960.
  • We came one inning short of the franchise record for longest game: a 19 inning, 4-3 Tacoma Tigers win over the Las Vegas Stars on April 28, 1989. That one clocked in at 5 hours, 22 minutes.
  • The last time Tacoma played 18 innings was August 1, 1999 at Iowa. The Rainiers lost that game on a walk-off home run by Bo Porter, who is currently the third base coach for the Washington Nationals. He hit it off Damaso Marte.
  • The PCL innings record is 24, set in 1909 and tied by Nashville and New Orleans in 2006.
  • Tacoma has played a total of 17 extra innings in the last six games – that’s almost two full extra games.
  • Special kudos to the two catchers, each of whom caught all 18 innings: Tacoma’s Brandon Bantz and Sacramento’s Josh Donaldson.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and we’re hoping for nine innings – actually, we would prefer eight-and-a-half innings. Tacoma starts RHP Hector Noesi (0-0, 13.50) against Sacramento RHP Bruce Billings (5-3, 3.31). Tune in on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here – see if I have any voice left! I might go hoarse during the game tonight.

The Rainiers are adding pitcher Jandy Sena from Double-A Jackson for tonight’s game. He is sure to see some action; Daren Brown says that Sena, Brian Moran, and in an emergency Chance Ruffin are the only available relievers tonight.


Good chance there will be no blog – or a very brief one – on Friday, due to the travel to Colorado Springs which goes bus ride – airport – flight to Denver – loss of an hour – long bus ride to the Springs – straight to park with barely enough time for lunch. It’s a real PCL grinder.


2 Responses to Rainiers Win With Savvy Finish

  1. Mac says:

    What is the door to door travel time from Tacoma to Colorado Springs? Does Friday’s starting pitcher fly out early?

  2. […] has a detailed blog post about last night’s game with a few tidbits. Curto’s “Booth, Justice and the American Pastime” is a must-read if you want to follow the Tacoma Rainiers and the future Mariners. You can […]

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