Tacoma, WA (9/19/23) – The Tacoma Rainiers (76-69, 39-31) trailed the Round Rock Express (85-59, 41-29) 5-0 in the first inning of Tuesday’s series opener, led 9-5 after hitting two grand slams in the first, and cruised to a 15-9 win with an 18-hit attack at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma has
Tacoma, WA (9/19/23) – The Tacoma Rainiers (76-69, 39-31) trailed the Round Rock Express (85-59, 41-29) 5-0 in the first inning of Tuesday’s series opener, led 9-5 after hitting two grand slams in the first, and cruised to a 15-9 win with an 18-hit attack at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma has won three straight and reached double-digit runs in three straight (37 runs total), and has racked up 38 hits over two games after a season-high 20-hit outburst on Sunday at Oklahoma City.
The victory kept the Rainiers alive for the Pacific Coast League’s lone second half playoff berth; they trail Round Rock by 2.0 games with five to play. With five teams still alive for one spot, Tacoma cannot lose twice during this regular season-ending homestand and win the half. Should the Rainiers win out or win four of five at minimum, they can still finish in first place outright, or via various tiebreakers. Las Vegas and Reno are each 40-30 (1.0 GB) and playing each other this week. Albuquerque (38-32, 3.0 GB) is still barely alive, vs. Oklahoma City this week; OKC, as first half winner, will host the second half qualifier in a best-of-three PCL Finals beginning Tuesday, September 26.
Each club hit two homers in the first inning on Tuesday; Round Rock had two solo shots (Elier Hernandez, 18, on the first pitch of the game, and Blaine Crim, 21). Isiah Gilliam (right field) and Ryan Bliss (right-center) were the beneficiaries of the Express walking six of nine Tacoma batters to begin the game, each hitting a grand slam. Bliss now has 22 homers this season at all levels. Gilliam’s titanic blast was his first home run as a Rainier (promoted from Double-A Arkansas on 8/26), and traveled an estimated 478 feet at a 113.3 mph exit velocity off the bat, as the evening’s both furthest and hardest-hit ball. The nine-run first was Tacoma’s biggest inning of 2023; the Rainiers had scored eight runs in a frame on three earlier occasions.
The Bliss slam went 406 feet to the gap, and was his second since Wednesday afternoon at Oklahoma City. Bliss (2) and Gilliam made it seven grand slams this season for Tacoma, joining Mike Ford (2), Jake Scheiner and Pedro Severino. 13 Rainiers batted in the first inning, Round Rock batted nine. The 14-run, 22-batter frame took 47 minutes to complete (3:09 game time). After walking six times in the opening inning, Tacoma drew only one more walk the remainder of the game.
Six Rainiers scored multiple runs, seven had multiple hits. Adam Engel (3 runs, RBI, stolen base, BB) had four hits, Zach DeLoach (run, RBI) had three knocks. Bliss (2 runs, BB) added an RBI single in the sixth for a 5-RBI night, his first such game as a Rainier. Riley Unroe (2 H, 2 runs, 2 BB) chipped in a two-run triple in the second, and Cooper Hummel (2 H, 2 runs, BB) launched a solo homer in the third (7), as 14 of Tacoma’s 15 runs were tallied during the first three innings.
Round Rock’s Elier Hernandez matched Engel by reaching base five times, adding two more hits and two walks to his early homer (3 runs). Wyatt Langford (4 H, run), Dio Arias (2 H, 2 runs, BB) and Sandro Fabian (2 H, 3 RBI) also had multiple hits for the Express. Langford, the fourth overall pick by Texas in this year’s draft (University of Florida) made his Triple-A debut on Tuesday in Tacoma, and added a stolen base to his 4-for-5 effort.
Both sides combined to use 13 pitchers, and Rainiers RHP Adam Oller settled in quickly after the unusual first, working five full innings and allowing only one additional run (BB, 3 K). Oller picked up the winning decision on 89 pitches. Right-handers Ryder Ryan (K) and Casey Sadler each fired a perfect inning apiece to end a game for the ages at Cheney.
This weeklong series will continue with game two on Wednesday, a 6:05 PT first pitch at Cheney Stadium. Darren McCaughan, Tacoma’s modern-era strikeout leader (since 1995, 409 K) is scheduled to make his final start of the regular season and 84th career for the franchise. Former Rainier (2021) Robert Dugger is lined up for Round Rock.
Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto will have full coverage on TacomaRainiers.com. All 2023 Rainiers games, home and away, can also be heard for free on the MiLB First Pitch app. HD video broadcasts of every home game can be viewed with a MiLB.TV subscription.
About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The Rainiers are a member of the Pacific Coast League and have been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.