Tacoma Rainiers utility man Leury Bonilla is known for a few things: He can play anywhere on the field and once played all nine positions in a single game, he always has a sunny disposition and he’s rarely injured.
He’s not known for hitting home runs.
But that’s exactly what he did on Friday night in Fresno, drilling a go-ahead homer to straight-away center field in the eighth inning. The homer proved to be the game-winner as Tacoma claimed a 9-7 victory.
“A fastball,” Bonilla said. “I didn’t think it was gone. It’s a long way out there.”
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It was Bonilla’s second homer of the year, and his first since May 29th.
“That’s why I didn’t pinch-hit for him,” Tacoma manager Roy Howell joked. “He’s invaluable to the ballclub. He doesn’t hit .300, but he seems to get big hits when we need them.”
Bonilla’s blast was one of four Tacoma homers on the night. Justin Smoak hit a three-run shot in the first inning, and Stefen Romero tied the game at 7 with a two-out, two-run shot in the seventh. Corey Hart added an insurance run with a leadoff shot in the ninth.
Tacoma starter and former University of Washington star Forrest Snow had a rocky final outing of 2014, giving up seven runs over five innings. But one day after blowing a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning, Tacoma’s bullpen was stellar.
Logan Bawcom, Blake Beavan and Todd Coffey combined to pitch four scoreless innings. Beavan escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth by getting Brandon Hicks to ground into a double play, and Coffey navigated a couple of singles in the ninth to nail down his 11th save.
The victory was the 73rd of the year for Tacoma, which guarantees the team will have a winning record at the completion of the 144-game schedule Monday.
The Pacific Coast League awards were issued as follows: Albuquerque outfielder Joc Pederson (.307, 33 home runs, 78 RBI, 30 stolen bases) won both the most valuable player and the rookie of the year while becoming the league’s first player with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases since Frank Demaree in 1934. Nashville’s Jimmy Nelson (10-2, 1.46) won pitcher of the year, while manager of the year went to Las Vegas (80-61) skipper Wally Backman.
Tacoma starter Taijuan Walker (6-3, 4.57 ERA) faces Fresno’s Austin Fleet (3-2, 4.17) on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. in Fresno.