Fresno, Calif. - Cole Gillespie delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to propel the Fresno Grizzlies to a 5-4 win over the Tacoma Rainiers on Sunday at Chukchansi Park.
The Grizzlies and Rainiers went back and forth all game long until Gillespie drove home the game-deciding run. The bottom half of the eighth was started with a strikeout by Johnny Monell, but Juan Perez followed by dropping in a single into short center field. With Gillespie at the plate, Perez stole second base and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Gillespie cashed in Perez one pitch after the wild pitch to make it 5-4 Grizzlies.
Heath Hembree closed out the game with a scoreless ninth inning. The right-hander allowed a leadoff single, but retired the next three batters in order for his first save of the season. Hembree has not allowed a run in eight straight appearances with the Grizzlies, dating back to last season.
Chris Dominguez shined for the Grizzlies in both halves of the sixth inning. Tacoma's Scott Savastano hit a single with the bases loaded to tie the game at 2-2, but Dominguez threw out Jesus Sucre at the plate with a one-hop throw to Monell on the play to end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Dominguez smacked a triple off the left-center field wall to score Brett Pill and Gillespie, giving the Grizzlies a 4-2 lead.
The newfound lead did not last long, however, as the Rainiers scored two runs in the top of the seventh on a two-base error by Fresno second baseman Juan Ciriaco. With runners on first and second with two outs, Rich Poythress hit a short fly ball near the first base line that Ciriaco mishandled. Denny Almonte and Alex Liddi scored on the error to tie the game at 4-4.
Jean Machi picked up the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. The right-hander struck out one and walked one.
Grizzlies starting pitcher Michael Kickham pitched well in his Triple-A debut, allowing one run on four hits over five innings pitched. The left-hander struck out six and walked three on 86 pitches.
While Kickham allowed a baserunner in each inning, the only real threat he faced was in the fourth inning. Liddi led off the frame with a triple and was driven home by Carlos Peguero with a single to make it 2-1 Grizzlies. Poythress later hit a single to put two runners on base, but Kickham settled in and struck out two of the next three batters he faced to end the inning.
Pill drove in the first two Fresno runs with a double into left-center field that scored Ciriaco and Francisco Peguero. Pill finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
The Grizzlies will begin a four-game set against the Las Vegas 51s, now the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, on Monday, April 8th at 7:05 pm. Boof Bonser will start for Fresno in his 2013 debut. The right-hander will face left-hander Darin Gorski.