WEST SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - The fickle waves of momentum have been uncertain at best in the opening round Pacific Coast League playoff series between the Tacoma Rainiers and Sacramento River Cats.
But for the second consecutive night, it was Tacoma that stayed afloat as the scoreboard rocked back and forth. After blowing a four-run lead, Tacoma struck again late and hung on for an 8-5 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night.
Tacoma now leads the best-of-five set 2-0 as the Pacific Conference Championship heads north to play out the remainder of the series at Safeco Field in Seattle. Game 3 is at 7 p.m. today.
“Personally, I knew it was going to be a hell of a series, and it’s not over yet,” Tacoma manager Jose Castro said. “It’s not over. We’ll enjoy this win and get ready for tomorrow.”
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Following a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the first game of the series, Tacoma saw its own lead evaporate on Thursday.
In what originally looked to be the striking blow, Dustin Ackley, with two outs in the sixth inning, smoked a line drive grand slam that ricocheted off the right field foul pole, giving the Rainiers a 5-1 advantage. It was the first grand slam of Ackley’s professional career.
“It was hooking there at the end,” Ackley said. “I was like, ‘Well, it’s going to be close,’ and when it hit the pole, it was pretty exciting.” “It was a 3-2 change-up. I always look fastball, but I knew to stay back. That guy threw me a 3-1 change-up in my at-bat before, so I was kind of ready for it. I had seen it before.”
But as the script has read thus far in the series, nothing seemed final until the last out.
In the seventh inning, the River Cats drew even with four runs, capped by former Rainiers first baseman Tommy Everidge’s three-run home run to left-center field to tie the game at 5.
It didn’t take long for momentum to swing back in the Rainiers’ favor.
Tacoma jumped ahead again in the top of the eighth on a misplayed diving attempt by Sacramento center fielder Corey Brown that led to Jeffrey Dominguez’s RBI triple and drove in Mike Wilson. Ackley then drove in his fifth run of the game with a ground-ball single. He later scored on Mike Carp’s sacrifice fly to give the Rainiers an 8-5 advantage.
“We couldn’t ask for much more than that,” Ackley said. “Coming out of here with one win would have been good for us, but I think two wins, especially going home, is going to be good for us.”
Tacoma starter Blake Beavan threw 6† innings, allowing four runs on nine hits in the no-decision. Rainiers reliever Levale Speigner earned the victory despite recording just one out in the seventh inning after allowing Everidge’s home run.
Tacoma left-hander Mauricio Robles (3-1, 3.54 ERA) will face Sacramento right-hander Vince Mazzaro (3-1, 3.13) in Game 3 tonight at Safeco Field. The 7 p.m. game will be broadcast live on 850-AM, with Mike Curto calling the game. Tickets are $30, $25 and $20.