EL PASO, Texas. – The Tacoma Rainiers took a 1-0 series lead in the Pacific Conference Championship Series with a 6-5, extra-innings victory over the El Paso Chihuahuas on Wednesday night at Southwest University Park.
Tacoma led the contest 5-3 entering the bottom of the ninth inning before an El Paso rally sent the game to extra innings. The two club’s would play a pair scoreless extra frames before an RBI single from Zach Shank in the top of the 12th inning lifted the Rainiers to victory.
Both shortstop Tyler Smith and designated hitter Rob Brantly finished the night 4-for-6 while combining to score four runs. Center fielder Daniel Robertson (2×7) and Shank (2×5) also chipped in with multi-hit games.
Tacoma starting pitcher Jarrett Grube allowed only three runs (two earned) on four hits over 5.1 innings of work – he walked three and struck out seven while surrendering one home run.
An RBI single from Shank scored first baseman Dan Vogelbach from third base in the top of the second to give the Rainiers their first run of the postseason. Vogelbach had led off the frame with a double and moved to third on a single from Brantly to set up the run-scoring hit. Three batters later, Robertson laced a bases-loaded, two-run single into center to extend the Rainiers lead to 3-0.
Diego Goris got the Chihuahuas on the board with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning that cut the Rainiers lead to 3-1.
El Paso chipped into the lead again in the bottom of the fifth inning when Manuel Margot took Grube deep to center field for a solo HR, making the score 3-2.
Back-to-back doubles to lead off the top of the sixth from Smith and Brantly plated a Rainiers run, while left fielder James Ramsey chipped in with an RBI single to push Tacoma’s advantage out to 5-2.
El Paso notched a run in the bottom of the sixth on a fielding error by Smith, when he dropped a pop fly on the edge of the outfield grass with two outs. The dropped out cut the Rainiers edge to just two runs at 5-3.
The Chihuahuas would rally for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 5-5 and send the game to extra innings. Back-to-back doubles from Nick Noonan and Margot scored the first run, while a throwing error by Smith on an attempted game-ending double-play turn scored the tying run.
The Rainiers retook the lead with three consecutive one-out singles in the top of the 12th inning – Shank’s RBI single into left field put Tacoma out in front, 6-5.
Al Alburquerque, who logged the final two outs in the bottom of the 11th, remained in the game and worked a scoreless 12th to seal the Rainiers victory – he earned the win.
The Rainiers will aim to expand their series lead when they send right-hander Cody Martin (10-7, 3.62) to the mound for game two tomorrow, Thursday, September 8. The Chihuahuas are expected to counter with righty Walker Lockett (1-2, 4.50). First pitch is set for 5:35 p.m. PT.
Tickets for the Rainiers 2016 home playoff dates can be purchased by visiting the Cheney Stadium Box Office, calling 1-800-745-300, or by visiting www.tacomarainiers.com. The most up-to-date news and notes about the Rainiers throughout the season can be found by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand) or liking the team on Facebook.