Friday night’s contest ended in the final swings for the Sacramento River Cats, as they scored twice in the first and saved the winning run for the ninth when Heliot Ramos hammered a pitch over the left-field wall for a walk-off 3-2 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers.
Following that 11-inning contest, it seemed as if game five of the series might be heading in the same direction Saturday after the Rainiers (47-48) had tallied a run in their half of the eighth to knot the contest at 3-3. Sam Haggerty earned a walk and then found himself at third base after stealing second before advancing on a wild pitch. That put him in prime position to score the tying run on an RBI groundout by Didi Gregorius despite the best efforts of Ford Proctor at first base, as his spinning throw home was off the mark.
That set the stage for the dramatic bottom of the ninth, where the River Cats (42-52) were down to their final strike before putting the game away. Battling through a six-pitch at-bat that saw a failed challenge on a called strike, Ramos hung in there and sent the crowd home happy when he unloaded on a 2-2 pitch and deposited the ball over the wall in left field.
That marked the seventh walk-off victory for the River Cats this season, but the first on a walk-off home run. Additionally, it was the 12th home run for the River Cats in the ninth inning, which moved them out of a tie with Oklahoma City and Tacoma (11) for the most in Triple-A.
Though the game had late theatrics, neither team had scored since the first inning before Tacoma’s tally in the eighth. As most fans were finding their seats there was a runner on third for the Rainiers when Sam Haggerty sent the first pitch of the contest into the left-field corner for a triple.
Though he was stopped from scoring after a great glove flip by Sacramento starter Keaton Winn on a slow comebacker, later in the inning Zach DeLoach delivered an RBI single into center field for the game’s first run.
Ready to counter were the River Cats, doing so on one swing of the lumber from Isan Diaz. Much like Haggerty, there was no waiting in the at-bat by Diaz as he crushed the first pitch he saw deep over the right-field wall. It was a two-run blast for Diaz, as scoring on the play was Marco Luciano after he drew a one-out walk.
In the middle innings it was all about the pitching, as Winn allowed just the one run on three hits in 3.0 innings of work. He then passed the baton to Sean Newcomb, who turned in perhaps his best outing of the season as he blew past his previous season high in strikeouts by fanning seven hitters, allowing just two hits over 3.0 frames.
Matching that duo nearly every step of the way was Tacoma starter Adam Oller, who needed just 102 pitches to get through 8.0 solid innings of three-hit ball. Though he did allow the two-run home run in the first, he punched out eight and was let off the hook when the Rainiers scored in the eighth. That included a stretch of 10 straight River Cats retired from the middle of the fifth through the eighth.
Taking credit for the win was Erik Miller (2-1), who claimed his second victory of the campaign after he worked a perfect top of the ninth. Serving up the home run to Ramos was Blake Weiman (1-4), his only hit allowed in the frame as he was charged with the loss.
Sacramento had just four hits on the night, all of which came from different bats. Diaz and Ramos made theirs count with home runs, while Luciano logged a single and finished 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. Recording the final hit was Ricardo Genoves, who ended the game 1-for-3.
Tomorrow’s series finale will see the River Cats go for the series split, with first pitch against the Rainiers scheduled for 1:05 p.m. from Sutter Health Park.