The Tacoma Rainiers have been winning so frequently of late that a four-run lead going to the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday seemed like a lock to hold.
The Fresno Grizzlies rallied to tie the game with four runs in the bottom of the eighth, and beat the Rainiers, 6-5, on Adam Duvall’s walk-off hit in the ninth.
Batting with the bases loaded and two outs, Duvall grounded Carson Smith’s 1-0 pitch into left field to score Guillermo Quiroz with the winning run in the opening game of a five-game series.
The result cost Tacoma starter Jordan Pries his 10th win. Pries pitched six innings, allowing three hits and one run.
Pries left the game with a 4-1 lead, and when Ji-Man Choi homered in the top of the eighth to make it 5-1 it seemed all but certain that Pries would become the first Tacoma pitcher to reach double-figures in wins since 2010.
Making his Triple-A debut, Trevor Miller pitched a perfect seventh inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
Miller stayed in the game for the eighth inning, allowing a one-out RBI double to Duvall making it 5-2. With runners at second and third, Miller struck out Jarrett Parker for the second out.
Smith was ready in the bullpen, but the Rainiers decided to show some faith in Miller and left him in to face veteran Brandon Hicks.
Hicks launched the first pitch he saw deep over the left-field fence for a game-tying three-run homer, spoiling Miller’s debut. It was the fifth homer in Fresno for Hicks, who also has hit eight in the majors for San Francisco this year.
Tacoma’s offense was a mixed bag. The team connected for 12 hits and two homers, but twice they had a runner at third base with less than two outs and were unable to score.
Choi went 3-for-5 with a triple and a homer, and Xavier Avery lined a homer in the fifth inning. Avery’s homer was his tenth of the year, establishing a new career high.
Corey Hart went 2-for-4 with a walk, hitting three line drives as he continued his rehabilitation assignment.
First baseman Justin Smoak continued his surge at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs batted in. Smoak has reached base in 24 consecutive games, and he lifted his batting average to .333 in 53 Triple-A games.
The Rainiers trailed 1-0 when Avery tied it with his solo shot. After Hart grounded out, Ketel Marte doubled, advanced to third on Stefen Romero’s groundout and scored on Smoak’s single to right field to put Tacoma on top.
Tacoma’s Forrest Snow (2-3, 3.27 ERA) will start at 7:05 p.m. Frida. The Grizzlies are expected to start left-hander Kelvin Marte (1-2, 5.34).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.