Court in session for Rainiers infielder

Mariners farmhand keys rally with homer in fifth straight game

Ryan Court has hit seven homers in 96 at-bats with Tacoma, including five in his last 20. (Jeff Halstead/Tacoma Rainiers)

By Michael Avallone / | July 14, 2019 10:26 PM

Power has never been an integral part of Ryan Court's game. At least it wasn't until this past week.

The veteran infielder homered for the fifth consecutive game and reached safely three times to help Triple-A Tacoma rally past Reno, 5-4, in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon at Cheney Stadium. Court's solo shot in the bottom of the ninth tied the game and Mariners No. 14 prospect Jake Fraley ended it an inning later with a walk-off single.

Mike Zunino was the last player to go deep in five straight games for Tacoma, accomplishing the feat from April 13-18, 2016. 

Video: Tacoma's Court extends homer streak

Drafted in the 23rd round by the D-backs in 2011, Court began his long ball streak with a three-run clout against Fresno on July 5. He waited six days to homer again -- he sat out both games of a July 6 doubleheader, and the Triple-A All-Star break kept him idle until Thursday when he cleared the fences against the Aces.

The Illinois State product went deep in each of the next two games but waited until his final at-bat Sunday to extend the streak. The multi-hit game pushed his slash line to .302/.389/.635 with 16 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 27 games for the Rainiers. With eight homers, he's three shy of the career high he hit last season with Triple-A Iowa and across three levels in 2013.

Gameday box score

With Tacoma trailing, 4-3, and one out in the ninth, Court deposited the first pitch from Jimmie Sherfy over the left-center field fence. He'd struck out twice, walked and singled in his previous four plate appearances. Fraley -- who finished a triple shy of the cycle and walked twice -- singled to right to complete the comeback in the 10th.

"Anytime I try and hit a homer, I usually don't. I collapse on my back side or I overswing," he said. "[Sherfy] is a great pitcher. I played with him in the D-backs organization and he's got great stuff. I knew I had to be aggressive early, but I was definitely not trying to hit a homer there."

Court realized that the homer extended his streak, but it was far from his mind when he watched the ball clear the fence. 

"The bigger thing for me was the emotional high of tying the game," he said. "I was up earlier in the game [in the fifth] with the bases loaded and struck out. I was upset with myself, but I was happy I picked it up and got us even. I've been fortunate that my teammates have done a great job of setting me up for success. They're getting on base, putting me in good situations to hit and making my job a lot easier."

Court started the season with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters after he was released by the Cubs in March. He played in eight games in the Atlantic League and was signed by Seattle and assigned to Tacoma on May 7. The 31-year-old was hitting .328/.429/.586 with 16 RBIs in 17 games before he was placed on the seven-day injured list on May 25. He remained there until beginning a rehab assignment with Class A Short Season Everett on June 22. Court appeared in for four games with the AquaSox and returned to the Pacific Coast League on June 29.

"I had total confidence I'd be back in [the Minors]," he said. "I felt like I was good enough to go out there and play, but it didn't work out with the Cubs. It was a business decision, but I knew playing in indy ball that someone would take a chance on me. Seattle was that team."

The Elgin, Illinois, native has appeared in 760 Minor League games and hit for the cycle last July 20 for Iowa. Despite a .276 average and .796 OPS in the Minors, he has yet to earn a promotion to the Major Leagues. 

2019 MiLB include

"Obviously, that's the goal. That's the dream," Court said. "I've had an incredible ride and I don't regret anything that's happened along the way. I feel like I can play in the bigs, otherwise what's the point in playing? I've played with a few great organizations the last few years with the Red Sox and Cubs, but the timing just wasn't right. At the end of the day though, I'm trying to keep improving. When my career is over and if I make the Majors or not, I'll know I tried to get better and I've worked really hard." 

Tyler Cloyd (2-8) picked up his first win since May 12 in relief of starter Jonathon Niese. The 32-year-old right-hander allowed one hit and struck out three over four scoreless innings.

Caleb Joseph homered for the second time in four games and added a single for Reno.

Marc Rzepczynski (1-2) did not retire a batter in the 10th after an error and intentional walk preceded Fraley's game-winning single. Aces starter Joel Payamps yielded a run on four hits with six strikeouts in five innings, matching his career high with six walks. 

Michael Avallone is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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