Tacoma Rainiers

Patrick Kivlehan’s walk-off homer lifts the Rainiers in the ninth

After an afternoon of scoreless baseball between the Rainiers and the El Paso Chihuahuas, Tacoma’s Patrick Kivlehan ended the drought by hitting a two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth inning Sunday.

Justin Germano pitched a shutout — his first complete game since July 24, 2014, and his first shutout since July 26, 2011 — while allowing seven hits and striking out five.

“I just went out there and threw strikes,” Germano said. “I mixed up my pitches as much as I could, and my defense made some great plays.”

Chihuahuas starter Jason Lane threw 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball in the pitchers’ duel. In the first eight innings, the teams went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

“There were two pitchers changing speeds and locating great,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “We made some adjustments though and moved up in the box to catch up with his changeup.”

Germano allowed three leadoff doubles, and almost yielded a run in the sixth inning when Chihuahuas second baseman Rocky Gale doubled to lead off. Gale advanced to third with one out, and tried scoring on a pop fly but was gunned out by Kivlehan to end the inning.

“He’s (Germano) a professional,” Listach said. “He’s been consistent all year long, and I’m not surprised at all by his start.”

The Rainiers led off the ninth inning with a pop fly from Stefen Romero, but Leon Landry singled to center to give the Cheney Stadium fans hope.

That hope looked as if it had diminished when John Hicks grounded into a fielder’s choice and Landry was forced out at second base. Hicks beat out the throw to first though and Kivlehan knew there was still hope with two outs.

“I was just trying to hit the ball to the gap because I knew John (Hicks) can run really well,” Kivlehan said.

Kivlehan instead hit the homer, off of Jerry Sullivan, and was mobbed by his teammates after crossing the plate.

“I was in the bathroom and was watching the TV in the clubhouse when it happened,” Germano said. “I ran out the door and joined the celebration at home plate.”

Listach said Kivlehan had been struggling — collecting only one hit in his last four games — but had recently starting working more closely with hitting coach Cory Snyder.

“He’s just been working with me to stay confident,” Kivlehan said.

SHORT HOPS

After hitting three home runs Saturday, Tacoma’s Justin Ruggiano went 0  for 4. … Outfielder Shawn O’Malley extended his home hitting streak to 13 games, going 3 for 4.

ON TAP

The Rainiers will finish their four-game series against the Chihuahuas at 6:05 p.m. Monday. Tacoma will start right-hander Sam Gaviglio (7-5, 4.39 ERA) against El Paso right-hander Daniel McCutchen (1-5, 5.37 ERA).

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