The Tacoma Rainiers are playing so well, that even when the lose they nearly win.
Trailing by three runs going to the ninth inning Friday, Tacoma scored twice and put the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position before losing to Salt Lake, 4-3.
Tacoma manager Roy Howell was happy with the fight his team showed in the ninth, even though it ultimately came up short.
“I’m very proud of them because they played for 27 outs,” Howell said. “They played hard. The game’s not over until the last out, and they played until the last out.”
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Ty Kelly opened the ninth by lining the first pitch from Michael Kohn into center for a single, and Ji-Man Choi followed with a walk.
After a ground out moved the runners up, Nate Tenbrink and Leury Bonilla hit consecutive RBI singles, making the score 4-3.
Fernando Salas relieved, and he got Xavier Avery and Julio Morban to ground out, ending the game.
Tacoma (57-57) settled for a split of the four-game series in Salt Lake City, and finished the season 8-8 against the Bees.
Rainiers starter James Gillheeney (3-9) took the loss, allowing three runs in six innings. He allowed all three runs in the first three frames, when he had trouble shutting down innings after there were two outs.
Back-to-back two-outs walks in the first inning led to a run, and he allowed a homer to Luis Jimenez in the third.
“He needs to be consistent, and that’s not consistent,” Howell said. “He’s working in his bullpens to be consistent with his pitches, and he needs to take that out to the mound.”
Gillheeney pitched scoreless ball over his final three innings, recording his first quality start since June 29.
Tacoma played its second consecutive game with just 10 position players on the roster. Outfielders Stefen Romero and James Jones are expected to join the team in Albuquerque over the weekend, but the team still needs an infielder capable of playing shortstop. ... Infielder Gabriel Noriega (strained calf) is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday, but he is unlikely to be ready.
The road trip advances to Albuquerque with Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. game. Tacoma starts Erasmo Ramirez (2-4, 4.15 ERA) against an Albuquerque pitcher to be determined.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.