Those who have been involved in baseball know that when your starting pitcher is struggling entering the game, it is time for the offense to step up and give him a little bit of a cushion to ensure he can focus on just throwing strikes. The Las Vegas 51s were in such a situation, as starter Matt Bowman entered the contest struggling early on in the Pacific Coast League season, but his offense took care of the right-hander on this day. None more so than DF Darrell Ceciliani.
Ceciliani blasted two home runs, both two-run shots that helped the 51s offense in the Las Vegas 51s 10-run attack. The team’s centerfielder is known more for his speed than his ability to hit the long-ball, but on Sunday he proved that he can go deep as well.
Matt Bowman started for Las Vegas, and he had been struggling early in 2015, allowing at least six runs in each of his first three starts. The right-hander looked like that streak was coming to an end, however, as he retired the Albuquerque lineup in order in the first frame.
In the bottom of the first his club would stake him to a four-run lead. Dilson Herrera led off with a double and one out later Isotopes starter David Hale hit Matt Reynolds to put runners at first and second with one out. Johnny Monell followed with a lined single to left that scored Herrera, giving the 51s the 1-0 lead. With Alex Castellanos at the plate C Dustin Garneau could not handle the Hale pitch, as it skirted away from him allowing both runners to move into scoring positon. Castellanos followed with a sharp single to left that scored Reynolds and put runners at the corners.
A trip to the mound by the pitching coach ensued as Albuquerque needed their starter to settle in. Following the chat, Brandon Allen hit a sharp grounder that rolled into rightfield, scoring Monell. Travis Taijeron walked, and the bases were loaded with one out. The inning was looking like it was going to get completely out of control, and when Hale threw a wild pitch moving everyone up 90 feet the nightmare continued. Wilfredo Tovar hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Angelys Nina who made a great plate, firing home to gun down Allen, keeping the score 4-0. Hale then got Bowman to ground out and the inning mercifully came to an end.
Bowman returned to the mound in the second, and again looked sharp. He retired the Isotopes in order, including striking out Garneau. His pitches were really working.
While Bowman was breezing, Hale continued to struggle. Herrera lined a single to left to begin the inning, and Ceciliani followed with a deep shot to rightfield to make it 6-0. It was his third home run of the year. Hale then struck out Reynolds and Monell, but Castellanos drilled a line drive into the gap in leftfield and raced in with the stand-up triple. After Allen reached on a free pass, Taijeron popped one up that Isotopes centerfielder Brandon Barnes could not get to. The ball dropped in, scoring Castellanos, and Hale was done for the day.
Staked to a 7-0 lead, Bowman just took control. He retired the Albuquerque hitters in order in the third and fourth innings, giving him 12 straight retired to start the game. In the fifth he finally allowed his base runner when Garneau singled with one out. An error put Nina on first, and Tim Smalling followed with a walk to load the bases with one out. The 51s’ starter remained poised, striking out Joey Wong, his second strikeout of the inning, and induced Aaron Laffey to ground out to end the threat.
While Bowman was keeping the Isotopes bats at bay, his club was adding to his lead. In the fourth Las Vegas added another run when Reynolds and Monell led off with back-to-back singles. One out later Allen hit a sacrifice fly scoring Reynolds. In the fifth Herrera walked with two outs, and Ceciliani followed with a towering shot to right-centerfield to make it 10-0.
In the sixth Albuquerque finally got to Bowman. A walk and two singles plated one and left runners at second and third with one out. Garneau then grounded out to drive home another, and Nina then grounded a single into centerfield to score one more. A Smalling single followed, and that would be it for the right-hander.
Bowman (1-3) earned his first win of the season, going 5.2 innings pitched, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 earned runs, while striking out 3. It was easily his best performance of the season.
From there the 51s bullpen did the job. Cody Satterwhite, Scott Rice, and Zach Thornton combined to pitch the last 3.1 innings, allowing just one run on one hit.
The major damage for the 51s was done by their 1-5 hitters. The group was 9-21, with 10 runs scored and 6 RBI. Herrera scored three times, and Ceciliani, Reynolds and Castellanos each scored twice.
The Albuquerque Isotopes and Las Vegas 51s will square off again on Monday. It is an early Pacific Coast League affair, with game time being 3:05 ET.
By Robert Pannier