As far as anniversaries go, this was a downer. Ten years to the day after Albert Pujols hit a home run at AutoZone Park to win the 2000 Pacific Coast League championship for Memphis, the Redbirds dropped Game 2 of the PCL Championship Series to the Tacoma Rainiers, 11-7. Now down two games to zero, Memphis must win three straight this weekend to successfully defend its 2009 PCL title.
Again playing as the visiting team, the Redbirds made Tacoma feel right at home, allowing four unearned runs to cross the plate in the bottom of the first inning. A throwing error by first-baseman Mark Hamilton on what could have been an inning-ending double play preceded three hits and a walk allowed by Redbird starter Brandon Dickson. And it only got uglier. By the end of the fourth inning, Tacoma had tallied 12 hits — five of them home runs from five different players — and 11 runs. Shutout baseball the rest of the way by the Redbird bullpen only allowed the final score to be tightened. Rainier leftfielder Mike Wilson homered for the second straight day and drove in four runs. Greg Halman, Mike Carp, David Winfree, and Tug Hulett also went deep for tonight's "home" team. (The Rainiers' stadium is undergoing renovations, forcing the entire series to be played at AutoZone Park.)
Tacoma starter Mauricio Robles earned the win, allowing four runs over five innings with four strikeouts.
For Memphis, Hamilton drilled a 447-foot homer in the third to cut the Redbird deficit to 7-4. Allen Craig doubled twice and scored two runs while Amaury Cazana and Ruben Gotay scored two runs apiece. The Redbirds had a total of 11 hits, compared with 15 for Tacoma.
Game 3 will be played Friday night, with the Redbirds actually hosting (taking the field to start the game, batting in the bottom of the inning, wearing their red caps, etc.). P.J. Walters is scheduled to start for Memphis against the Rainiers' Yusmeiro Petit. For what it's worth, the Redbirds haven't lost three straight games since August 6-8.