It was the position Mike Carp wanted to be in - in the batter's box for the potential game-winning hit.
Carp ripped the second pitch he saw from Round Rock reliever Gary Majewski over the right-field fence for a three-run home run, sending the Cheney Stadium crowd of 5,632 into a frenzy and giving Tacoma a dramatic, 8-5 victory over the Express in 10 innings.
Salt Lake beat Nashville, 5-4, to maintain its half-game lead on Tacoma.
“I’ve been feeling good,” Carp said. “I’ve been getting good pitches to hit. I told myself in that situation right there that we have to get that run in.”
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With the team having recent offensive struggles, it was the long ball in the final two innings that sparked a comeback victory.
Tacoma trailed 5-3 going into the ninth, but got back-to-back solo home runs from Eliezer Alfonzo and Greg Halman to tie the game. Matt Mangini (single) and David Winfree (hit by pitch) were on at first and second with one out in the 10th before Carp blasted his 20th homer of the season.
After Saturday’s 14-inning marathon loss in which Carp was 0-for-5, he was 2-for-5 Sunday, and his RBI double to right field gave the Rainiers (63-58) their first run in the fourth inning. Mike Wilson’s single to left scored David Winfree and Carp to boost Tacoma’s lead to 3-0.
Tacoma saw the good and the bad side of recent call-up Mauricio Robles.
Just a day after arriving from Double-A West Tennessee, the 21-year-old left-hander got the start Sunday, and was in command through four innings with seven strikeouts, allowing just one hit.
It all fell apart in the fifth. Robles issued three walks – including one with the bases loaded – and gave up a single. Collin DeLome then drilled a grand slam over the right-field fence, and a 3-0 lead quickly turned into a 5-3 deficit.
Robles finished with eight strikeouts in five innings .
“He showed what he can do,” Rainiers manager Jose Castro said. “He’s got good stuff, but just lost it in the fifth.”
Andy Baldwin pitched four scoreless innings in relief to get the win, striking out six. SHORT HOPS
Robles was the 18th starter to take a turn in the Rainiers’ rotation this season . ... Reliever Danny Cortes also was called up from West Tenn on Saturday. To make room for Robles and Cortes in the roster, Mumba Rivera was sent to Double-A and Yusmeiro Petit was put on the inactive list.
The series finale concludes tonight at 7 p.m. Tacoma sends Michael Pineda (3-2, 3.67) to the mound against Round Rock right-hander Jordan Lyles (0-1, 6.00). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM and at www.taco marainiers.com .