To intentionally walk, or not to intentionally walk?
That was the question for the Tacoma Rainiers on Monday night as they lost to the River Cats in the bottom of the 10th inning, 6-5.
In a tight, back-and-forth game Tacoma had two situations in which an intentional walk was an option. Each time the Rainiers made their decision, the result went Sacramento’s way.
After Julio Morban’s two-out, two-run triple in the top of the sixth inning gave Tacoma a 3-2 lead, Sacramento put runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the inning. Hot-hitting left-handed swinger Jarrett Parker was up, and Rainiers right-hander Justin Germano was on the mound. Instead of issuing a walk to set up the double play, Tacoma elected to play the infield in and pitch to Parker. He promptly pulled a two-run single to right field to give Sacramento a 4-3 lead.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 10th with the score tied at 5 and Tacoma left-hander Joe Saunders on the mound. A leadoff walk to Skyler Stromsmoe led to a runner at second with two outs for right-handed clean-up hitter Adam Duvall and Parker on deck.
Duvall was 1 for 12 in the series, but Saunders had the lefty-vs.-lefty advantage on Parker. So this time an intentional walk was issued — and Parker followed with the game-winning single to center field.
While it can’t be known what would have happened if the Rainiers had chosen the opposite strategy in each situation, it shows how tight the game was.
Tacoma (7-12) scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning against previously unscored upon Sacramento reliever Curtis Partch when Patrick Kivlehan delivered a two-out, two-run single to give the Rainiers a 5-4 lead.
The Rainiers brought in Saunders to pitch the bottom of the eighth, and former Mariners shortstop Ronny Cedeno greeted him with a tying home run to left field.
Saunders (0-3) recovered to strike out five out of six batters through the eighth and ninth innings, sending the game into extras.
Tacoma was unable to get a base runner against Sacramento’s Hunter Strickland in the ninth and 10th innings. The hard-throwing right-hander, who was involved in several memorable October moments for the World Series champion Giants last year, earned the victory.
Outfielder James Jones took batting practice before the game. Jones has been on the 7-day disabled list since suffering a concussion during the Rainiers home opener April 17. … Tacoma relievers had a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings end with Cedeno’s homer in the eighth inning.
The four-game trip concludes with a 7:05 p.m. game. Tacoma starts left-hander Mike Montgomery (1-1, 3.68 ERA) against Sacramento right-hander Austin Fleet (0-1, 7.88). It will be broadcast on 850-AM.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainers.