The Fresno Grizzlies finally figured out how to get Stefen Romero out.
Fresno left fielder Tyler Colvin’s strong throw in the bottom of the 11th inning nailed Romero at the plate to preserve a 4-3 win over the Tacoma Rainiers at Cheney Stadium.
The Rainiers’ utility outfielder had been having himself a series until then. Romero went 9-for-18 with eight RBIs over the five-game series against Fresno, including a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday. On Monday, Romero came up clutch again and tied the game in the eighth inning with an RBI single to force extra innings.
After the Grizzlies took a 4-3 lead in the 11th on a wild pitch by Rainiers reliever Lucas Luetge, Romero led off the bottom half of the inning with a single.
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Justin Smoak followed with a single, and both runners moved up a base on Ty Kelly’s sacrifice bunt.
Humberto Quintero lofted a fly ball to left field but Romero was out after catcher Trevor Brown tagged him.
“The guys played to the last out,” Rainiers manager Roy Howell said. “You get thrown out at home plate to tie the game, that’s playing to the last out.”
The Rainiers were able to take three out of the five games against the Grizzlies. Tacoma (63-60) is in third place of the Pacific Coast League’s Northern Division.
“Right now at the end of the year, these games are all crucial but the guys played hard,” Howell said. “And that’s all I can ask of them.”
Michael Saunders, in his fifth rehabilitation start with Tacoma, went 1-for-5 with one run scored and one strikeout.
He will head home to Colorado on paternity leave while the Rainiers travel to play a four-game series against New Orleans.
“I feel like I’ve seen a lot of pitches, gotten to see lefties and righties, feel like my timing is back and most importantly, I don’t feel my oblique,” Saunders said. “I feel ready.
“That’s the main reason you come down here, because you can’t replicate game-like situations going through batting practice or going through fielding.”
In five starts with Tacoma, Saunders went 6-for-17 with two runs batted in, seven walks, and four strikeouts.
Saunders also switched between designated hitter and right field as he recovers from a left oblique strain that placed him on the Mariners’ disabled list on July 11.
“He’s getting to see the baseball and is starting to barrel the ball up a little bit,” Howell said. “Bottom line is that he’s seeing the ball and working on getting good swings and putting the ball in play.
“That’s the progression and from here on we’ll just keep working on the speed of the game as far as the pitches, change-ups, those types of things.”
Fresno took an early 3-1 lead thanks to the wildness of Rainiers starter Jordan Pries. Pries walked five batters and threw a wild pitch that led to the Grizzlies’ first run. He left after 52/3 innings, trailing 3-2.
Rainiers shortstop Ketel Marte went 2-for-5 in his Triple-A debut after being promoted from the Double-A Jackson Generals.
The Rainiers start a series at New Orleans at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday. Tacoma is scheduled to start right-hander Andrew Carraway (6-5, 5.54 ERA) against lefty Andrew Heaney (4-4, 4.35). The game can be heard on 850-AM.