You never know when it’s going to happen.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Tacoma Rainiers Annual Marathon Game That Ends With A Position Player Getting The Win.
It’s a new tradition, started on July 18, 2012 when Scott Savastano pitched a scoreless top of the 18th and then homered in the bottom of the inning to beat Sacramento, 2-1.
Savastano figured prominently in this one, but it was utility man Leury Bonilla who earned the win in Tacoma’s 9-8, 14-inning victory over Colorado Springs on Friday night/Saturday morning.
We’re doing this bullet-points style, so let’s hit it.
- First off, the Rainiers were a tired bunch. After getting back to the team hotel at midnight on Thursday night, they woke up at 3:30 AM in Round Rock, Texas, flew all day (with a layover in Las Vegas to break up any potential long sleep on the plane), and got to Cheney Stadium around 12:30 – in time for an afternoon nap before reporting to the game. That was an excellent performance by a tired ball club.
- Tacoma played without manager John Stearns, who was suspended three games by the Pacific Coast League for his outburst and ejection in Round Rock on Thursday night. Still no word on the suspension for umpire Kellen Levy, who also deserves three games for negligence of the playing conditions and player safety.
- Bench coach Scott Steinmann is filling in as Rainiers manager for the three games. He’s managed for many years in the lower levels of the Mariners farm system.
- The game was really sludging along early. We hit the two-hour mark in the fifth inning, as Rainiers starter Blake Beavan struggled with his command and needed a season-high 102 pitches to make it through five innings.
- Tacoma was down 6-3 before rallying for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Ty Kelly hit the game-tying sacrifice fly.
- We moved on into extra innings, as both teams were getting excellent relief pitching. Bobby LaFromboise and Josh Kinney combined to toss four scoreless innings for the Rainiers, during innings 7-through-10.
- We knew we were in for a long one when the ninth inning wrapped up, and it was tied, and it was 10:53 PM. It took 3 hours, 48 minutes to get through nine innings – and we weren’t even close to being finished.
- The Rainiers nearly won it in the tenth. Tacoma had runners at first and second with one out, and Kelly at the plate. He was batting from his stronger right-hand side against veteran left-hander Hisanori Takahashi. Kelly hit a screaming line drive – right at the second baseman, who caught it and doubled Jason Jaramillo off second base to end the inning.
- Brian Moran and Takahashi each tossed scoreless relief in the 11th and 12th innings, and then we got to the unlucky 13th.
- A tiring Moran allowed a single and walked two batters in the 13th, loading the bases with two outs for clean-up hitter Ryan Wheeler – who has been wearing out the Rainiers all season. Moran got ahead in the count, 0-2, and went right after the left-handed Wheeler. Wheeler made soft contact with the next pitch, looping a flare over Bonilla at third base for a two-run single. The Sky Sox had an 8-6 lead.
- The Sky Sox brought in reliever Mike McClendon to try to get the save, and he promptly walked Kelly to open the inning. He got the next two outs and the game was just about over – until Nate Tenbrink rolled a low-and-away pitch down the third base line for a double; for some reason the third baseman was playing way off the line. That put the tying runners in scoring position for Carlos Triunfel, who grounded to shortstop
to end the gameand it went off Reid Brignac‘s glove for a two-run, game-tying error.
- On to the 14th, and much to my surprise the Rainiers were out of pitching. Tacoma had Chance Ruffin, Logan Bawcom, and Jonathan Arias sitting in the bullpen – but according to Steinmann, all three were listed as unavailable prior to the game due to recent workloads. Ruffin had pitched three innings with one day off, Bawcom worked back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Arias was coming off 1.2 innings with a high pitch count on Thursday. I figured Bawcom and Arias were available, but no.
- So, Bonilla moved from third base to the mound for his eighth career pitching performance – and first since 2010. For the uninitiated, Bonilla plays every position on the field, and once played all nine positions in one game at Double-A Jackson on the last day of the season when the game was meaningless in the standings. They did it just to finish the season with a fun game.
- Moving Bonilla cost the Rainiers their DH, so Rich Poythress moved to third base (he played 14 games there in A-ball in 2010), and the injured Savastano went to first base. Savastano had not played in 13 days due to a strain in his side; throwing is problematic so first base seemed the safest place to put him. (FYI – Stefen Romero is injured again, this time’s its his knee).
- Bonilla pitched a 1-2-3 top of the 14th, even striking out Kent Matthes. He threw strikes – the radar gun was off last night; I don’t know what speed he was throwing.
- In the bottom of the 14th, catcher Jason Jaramillo ripped his fourth hit of the game – a double to right field – to lead off the inning. Bonilla was next, and he did not get a chance to win the game for himself: he was asked to bunt, and he did, sacrificing Jaramillo to third.
- Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill decided to intentionally walk the bases loaded, setting up a double play and a force out at home. Abraham Almonte and Kelly drew free passes. This brought the rusty Savastano to the plate: bases loaded, one out, tie game, and he hadn’t had an at-bat since August 3rd.
- Savastano got behind in the count, 1-2, before lifting the game-winning sac fly to right field, scoring Jaramillo with the winning run.
- The game clocked in a 5 hours, 29 minutes – the longest of the year for the Rainiers, and just three minutes shorter than the 18-inning game last year. It was the longest game in Sky Sox franchise history.
- Bonilla became the second Rainiers position player to earn a win in the last two years. Prior to Savastano’s victory last year, no Tacoma position player had earned a pitching win since 1987 (Tacoma Tigers infielder Thad Reese).
- Ty Kelly tied the PCL record for most walks in a game, with five (done many times). His fifth walk was intentional, in the bottom of the 14th, right before Savastano’s sac fly won it. Curiously, the last PCL player to draw five walks in a game was Colorado Springs outfielder Dexter Fowler – and he did it against Tacoma, in a 14-inning game, on June 21, 2011, at Cheney Stadium. Hmmm.
- Jaramillo went 4-for-7 at the plate, raising his Tacoma batting average 20 points in one day from .257 to .277.
- Both team’s catchers – Jaramillo and Jordan Pacheco – caught all 14 innings.
- Tenbrink went 3-for-7, and he’s now batting .346 with six homers and 15 RBI in 23 games since the all-star break.
Not to be overlooked: the Rainiers gained a game in the standings, and now trail Salt Lake by six. Tacoma needs to pick up two more games in the next nine days to be within striking distance of the Bees when they arrive in town on the 26th.
We have some roster moves that go into effect for tonight’s game:
Reliever Forrest Snow is coming back (for his third time this year) from Double-A Jackson, to help the bullpen. Snow has pitched well in AA and AAA this year; it’s good to have him back.
Catcher Jesus Sucre is joining the Rainiers today. He caught the last two days in the Arizona Rookie League on a rehabilitation assignment, and today he was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Tacoma. Sucre has been out since June 4, when he was hit in the wrist by a foul tip from a Chicago White Sox player.
Because Sucre is going to play, and it sounds like a Mike Zunino rehab is in the cards soon, catcher Brandon Bantz has been sent to Jackson so he can continue to get regular playing time. Bantz has been playing well here; he’ll be back when the catching logjam clears up.
Yesterday morning the PCL announced the realignment of the divisions for 2014. This was necessitated by the move of the Tucson franchise to El Paso for next season. Here’s how they will look:
Pacific-North: Tacoma, Reno, Sacramento, Fresno.
Pacific-South: Las Vegas, Salt Lake, El Paso, Albuquerque.
American-North: Colorado Springs, Oklahoma City, Iowa, Omaha.
American-South: Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Round Rock.
I have lots of thoughts about this, but today is not the day for them (due to everything I typed above). We’ll get to this later – perhaps not until the off-season; it’s not exactly a pressing issue right now.
Tonight’s game is at 7:05 (Pacific), and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, streaming right here, and available via the TuneIn app for iPads and smart phones. Tacoma starts LHP James Paxton (7-10, 4.35) against Colorado Springs RHP Cory Riordan (4-4, 6.29).
- There is no News Tribune game story from last night’s marathon – it ended too late for the print edition, and apparently the web edition as well.
- The Mariners picked up a 3-1 win at Texas last night. Hisashi Iwakuma tossed a gem.
- Ryan Divish has notes on Chris Woodward working with the Mariners young infielders, and Mike Zunino‘s timetable for return.
- Justin Smoak is one of the three “struggling young first basemen who aren’t struggling anymore.”
- Baseball America has notes on the PCL realignment, with stats showing elevation and runs/game in the various PCL ballparks.
- Salt Lake lost in the ninth to Las Vegas, 6-4. Las Vegas is tied in first place with Sacramento in the Pac-South.
- Sacramento beat Tucson as Daric Barton had a big game on his 28th birthday. Tucson is now four games out.
- Michael Kickham pitched well and Fresno held off Reno, 5-2.
- In the American-North, Omaha extended its lead to three games with a 5-2 victory at Memphis.
- Oklahoma City edged Albuquerque, 3-2, as George Springer continued his outstanding season.
- A dropped fly ball helped Round Rock defeat Nashville, 7-4.
- New Orleans defeated Iowa, 5-2. The Zephyrs are on storm watch – it’s that time of the year for them.
You know what we haven’t had in a while? A normal baseball game. You know what I’m talking about: a 5-3 final score, lasting about 2 hours and 48 minutes, with a quality start and solid relief pitching.