Jaff Decker homered to right field leading off the top of the ninth to tie the score at 3-3, and Renato Nunez scored on a bloop sacrifice fly, lifting Nashville to a 4-3 win over the New Orleans Baby Cakes on Sunday.
It was the second consecutive game in which the Sounds (67-71) overcame New Orleans (55-82) in the ninth inning in taking a 3-0 series lead. The season's final game is Monday.
“We have to do a better job coming out of the bullpen of getting guys out, that's all,” said manager Arnie Beyeler, his team losing its fourth consecutive game. “The guys came back from being down, put some runs together and played the game well. Then we come out in the last inning and just didn't get guys out.”
Reliever Severino Gonzales entered Sunday's game not allowing an earned run in 10 innings, spanning five home games.
Right fielder Moises Sierra hit a two-run, opposite-field single to right field in the fifth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie. Before Sierra's single, the Baby Cakes tied the score when left fielder Eury Perez was hit on the wrist by a pitch with the bases loaded. Perez left the game and did not return.
Nashville first baseman Chris Carter lined a homer to left in the sixth off starter Mike Kickham that cut the margin to 3-2.
Sierra eyeing a first
For outfielder Moises Sierra, this season didn't quite match that of 2016, when batted .336 with Double A Jacksonville.
However, Sierra said he thought he did well this season with New Orleans. He batted .294 with the Baby Cakes and had 11 home runs, 22 doubles, 66 runs batted in, 52 runs and 18 stolen bases in 122 games.
Six players have led New Orleans' Triple-A franchise in batting average and RBI, and three have led in hitting and stolen bases. With one game left, Sierra almost certainly will become the first player since the franchise moved here in 1993 to lead the team in batting average, RBIs and stolen bases in the same season. Outfielder Brandon Barnes has 15 stolen bases.
“That's what happens when you continue to work hard all season,” said Sierra, 29, who has played in 180 Major League games with Toronto and the Chicago White Sox and with five Triple-A teams. “I play hard and do my job, and the coaches did a good job.”
In Saturday's game, Sierra went 2-for-4, his 39th multi-hit game, which also leads the team. One of the hits was a well-placed bunt that he legged out in the sixth inning. He later scored on a sacrifice fly that gave the Cakes a temporary 5-4 lead.
What was significant about the bunt single is Sierra injured his left knee during a game on Aug. 6, and it has been sore and painful. That has drawn the respect of Beyeler.
“(Beyeler) gave me (a week) off after that to rest it, and that helped a lot,” Sierra said. “It's been hard to concentrate with the pain. You think about (he injury) when you run, and you feel it when you swing the bat.
“But before the games, I do ultrasound, ice it and do exercizes to get ready.”
Sierra was batting .301 on Aug. 13. Since then, he went 14-of-55 (.255). He's disappointed he won't finish the season as a .300 hitter.
He had another close call of sorts during New Orleans' series at OKC, preceding the final one against Nashville. The Cakes are the only team in the Pacific Coast League without a grand slam this season. Sierra wanted to change that.
When he came up with the bases loaded, he hit a shot to left field that nearly went out. He wound up with a bases-clearing double.
“I was on second base, and I go, 'Man! I was that close!'” he said. “I didn't hit it that well, but the ball was a foot or two from being a home run.”
Outfielder Eury Perez's two-out double in the first inning Sunday meant he has hit safely in 22 of 24 starts with New Orleans. He entered the game hitting .363 in 26 games since being obtained in a trade by the Marlins with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had Perez with Triple A Indianapolis. … Saturday's 8-6 loss gave the Baby Cakes a 23-38 record in games decided by one or two runs. The mark is the worst in the Pacific Coast League.