Duane Below Conquers Tacoma Rainiers in 2-0 Las Vegas 51s Victory
When Noah Syndergaard was promoted to the New York Mets, the Las Vegas 51s were looking for someone to step up and take his place as the king of the hill. Looks like the new king has been crowned.
Left-hander Duane Below continued his assault on Pacific Coast League hitters, this time tossing a four hit shutout of the Tacoma Rainiers in the Las Vegas 51s 2-0 victory. It was the seventh time in eight starts this season that the lefty has held opponents to less than two runs in a game.
Below was matched against Tacoma starter Forrest Snow. Snow entered the contest just 1-3 despite posting a 3.29 ERA in nine starts. His team has not provided much run support for the big right-hander so far this season, and they would fail to do so again on Tuesday afternoon.
The Las Vegas 51s scored their only runs in the second and the sixth innings. In the second Travis Taijeron continued his torrid start to the Pacific Coast League season by blasting his seventh home run of the season over the left field fence. He finished the day 2-3, moving his average to .346, tied for best in the league. His seven home runs rank him in the top ten in the PCL.
In the sixth T. J. Rivera reached on an error to begin the inning. Two outs later Alex Castellanos lined his 11th double of the season into left field scoring Rivera to make the score 2-0.
That was plenty enough support for Below (3-2). He retired the first eight Tacoma hitters of the game, before giving up a two out single to Shawn O’Malley in the third. The last out of the third started another run of eight straight retired which, ironically, ended when O’Malley drew a walk with one out in the sixth.
Below allowed an eighth inning single to John Hicks, but through the first eight he had allowed just two hits and a walk. He was not over-powering anyone, striking out just one batter through the first eight frames, but he was dominating them with his pitch placement. Tacoma was finding nothing good to hit, and when they made contact with the ball it wound up in someone’s glove.
In the ninth it looked like Below may finally have worn down. He retired O’Malley, but Austin Jackson followed with a single. James Jones then struck out, and Ketel Marte singled on a ball that hit off of Below. With runners on first and second the lefty was in trouble for the first time in the game. He had not allowed two runners on base at the same time all evening. This was his time to prove he is the true king of the hill for the Las Vegas 51s. He threw the perfect pitch to induce Stefen Romero to ground into a force out and the game was over.
Below’s four-hit shutout was an absolute thing of beauty. He threw just 98 pitches in going the distance, 67 of them were strikes. Amazingly this was the left-hander’s first career professional complete game shutout.
Snow (1-4) was the tough luck loser. The righty allowed 7 hits and 1 earned run in 7 innings. He also struck out 6.
Both of these teams have a day off tomorrow. The Las Vegas 51s welcome the Oklahoma City Dodgers to town on Thursday evening. Game time is 7:05 local time.
By Robert Pannier