For the first time this season, Tacoma Rainiers third baseman Ed Lucas was having a bad day in the batter’s box.
After hitting safely in each of the first eight games he batted in, Lucas found himself 0 for 5 as he approached the plate in the 11th inning on Sunday at Isotopes Park.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Lucas lined Nelson Gonzalez’s pitch over the head of the left fielder for a three-run double, snapping a 7-7 tie. Tacoma would go on to win the game, 10-7.
“He had hit the ball hard a few times and had nothing to show for it,” Tacoma manager Pat Listach said. “It was good for him to put another good swing on it, and actually have something to show for it. Couldn’t have come at a better time.”
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The win improved Tacoma’s record to 8-2, the second-best mark in the Pacific Coast League. Salt Lake is 9-2.
Lucas’s game-winner capped a game with many highlights.
The Rainiers scored three times in the top of the first inning, when Chris Taylor tripled, Stefen Romero singled and Mike Zunino homered to left field against Isotopes starter Eddie Butler.
Zunino has homered in each of the past four games he has played in, starting with Wednesday’s home game against El Paso. He was off Thursday and now has homered in each of the games in Albuquerque.
Tacoma’s early 3-0 lead disappeared as Butler settled down and the Isotopes started hitting. Ryan Casteel’s RBI double in the bottom of the fifth knocked out Rainiers starter Donn Roach with the score 7-3 — and Albuquerque had runners at second and third with no outs.
Enter Tacoma’s bullpen.
Casey Coleman escaped the fifth inning with no further damage, and he pitched a scoreless sixth.
“Pitcher of the game for us,” Listach said. “Second and third, nobody out, and he didn’t allow a run. That was crucial.”
The Rainiers rallied to tie the game in the top of the seventh. Catcher Rob Brantly pulled his first homer of the year down the right field line to make it 7-4. The Rainiers followed with four consecutive two-out hits to bring home three more. Mike Baxter’s base hit to center scored Romero to tie the game.
Rainiers relievers continued to provide shutdown innings. Paul Fry pitched a perfect seventh. Justin DeFratus worked three scoreless innings, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced. And after Lucas’s big hit in the top of the 11th, Blake Parker set down the side in the bottom of the inning to earn the save.
The four-game series in Albuquerque comes to an end with an 11:05 a.m. (PDT) game Monday. Tacoma starts right-hander Joe Wieland (1-0, 3.00) against Albuquerque righty Matt Flemer, who will be making his debut at the Triple-A level.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Rainiers.