Rainiers win home opener in thrilling fashion


By Steve Mullen – news@tacomaweekly.com


Shed Long, inserted into the game as a pinch runner in the ninth inning, scored the winning run in the Rainiers’ season opener.
Credit: Rainiers

On a cold, windy night on April 9 at Cheney Stadium, 4,174 fans braved the frigid conditions and saw their home town nine beat the El Paso Chihuahuas by a score of 5-4, with Shed Long scoring the winning run on a game winning single by Tito Polo.

“This was a much-needed win tonight after struggling in Sacramento,” said Rainiers manager Darren Brown, referring to his team dropping four out of five games in California’s capital city.

El Paso struck early when Doug France sent a three and two breaking ball from Rainier starter Matt Tenuta deep over the left field wall for an early 1-0 El Paso lead in the top of the first inning. Tenuta was a replacement for Erik Swanson, who was called up to the parent Mariners earlier in the day.

Things would get worse for Tacoma. Juan Pirela opened the second inning with another solo shot and the Chihuahua lead stood at 2-0. The Rainiers cut the lead in half when Jose Lobaton led off the second inning with a solo shot to left field for his second home run of the year to trim the lead to 2-1.

The Rainier bullpen by committee was the difference in the game. They stifled the El Paso offense from the third through the seventh innings and gave the Tacoma offense time to respond. And respond they did. “Pen (Murfee) and Tayler (Scott) were huge. They gave us time to get going on offense,” said Brown.

David Frietas opened the Tacoma fifth with a walk and the floodgates opened for the Rainiers. With runners on first and third with two outs, Braden Bishop lined a two-run double down the left field line to score both Frietas and Polo and Bishop took third on the throw home. Eric Young, Jr. laid down a great drag bunt down the third base line, scoring Bishop, and Tacoma would lead 4-2 after five innings.

El Paso tied the game with a two-out single in the ninth inning, setting the stage for some Rainier heroics. Frietas walked to open the ninth and Shed Long pinch ran. With runners at first and third with nobody out, Tim Lopes was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Polo sent the Rainiers home happy with a one-strike single to win it by a score of 5-4 for their second win of the year.

Bishop, whose two-RBI double in the fifth was the big blow for Tacoma, talked about his first week in triple A baseball. “I am not putting much into the AA-AAA thing but it has been a little adjustment and I am feeling better each day at the plate and in the field,” said the former Washington Husky star. He also talked about being included with the Mariners on their trip to Japan. “Ichiro was awesome. We all learned a lot from that experience and it was something the younger players will never forget, watching the future first-ballot hall of famer perform for the last time in his native country.”

The Rainiers first home stand of the season continues with a four-game series against Albuquerque from April 12-15.



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