While the New York Mets are catching fire of late, their AAA-affiliate finds themselves leaving a trail of smoke in their wake as well. The Las Vegas 51s won their fifth straight game Monday night, with a double-header sweep of the Albuquerque Isotopes. That improved the club’s record to 7-3 in their last ten games, and kept them a game behind the El Paso Chihuahuas in the Pacific Southern Division of the Pacific Coast League.
This was intended to be a day-night double-header, but rain forced both games into the evening. In Game 1 Noah Syndergaard (1-0) took the hill for the 51s and he was absolutely dominant. The righty won his first game of the year behind an outstanding 2-hit performance where he walked none and struck out nine.
Syndergaard allowed a one-out hit to Cristhian Adames in the first inning, then retired the next 18 batters before yielding a one-out hit in the seventh to Adames again. The Isotopes simply had no answer for him on this night, as he overpowered them working both sides of the plate, while keeping the visitors off balance.
The Las Vegas starter struck out just one batter in the first two innings, but in the third he caught fire. Syndergaard struck out two in the third, fourth, and fifth, then retired one on strikes in the sixth and the seventh. Overall he threw just 83 pitches, 62 of which were strikes.
While Syndergaard was shutting down the Albuquerque offense, his own offense was putting runs on the board to support their pitcher. The 51s got on the board in the first with back-to-back doubles form Matt Reynolds and Johnny Monell to stake Las Vegas to the 1-0 lead against Albuquerque starter Jon Gray (0-3).
In the third, Darrell Ceciliani walked with one out and moved to third on a single by Reynolds. Monell then grounded out, scoring Ceciliani and moving Reynolds to second Alex Castellanos followed with a double into the alley in rightfield easily scoring Reynolds to make the score 3-0.
In the fourth inning the Las Vegas 51s put up four more runs. Gray retired the first two batters, but then the wheels came off. Syndergaard helped his own cause with a single, and Dilson Herrera followed with a double. Ceciliani walked again, loading the bases for Reynolds. He doubled into leftfield, scoring all three runners, and the rout was on. Monell followed with a single scoring Reynolds, and that was it for Gray.
Las Vegas added one more run in the fifth. Syndergaard doubled with two outs. Herrera then dropped a bloop single into centerfield that scored Syndergaard, making the score 8-0.
The double was the key offensive weapon for Las Vegas on the day. The club had seven of them, including two by Reynolds. Reynolds was the overall hitting star for the 51s, going 3-4 with three runs and three RBI. Monell also drove in three. Syndergaard not only pitched the shutout but went 2-3 with two runs scored.
While Game 1 was dominated by the Las Vegas 51s, the second game was a nail-biter. Carlos Hernandez started for Albuquerque and Darin Gorski for Las Vegas. Both pitched well, but neither would be around when the game was decided.
Las Vegas got on the board first when they plated two in the bottom of the second inning. Brooks Conrad and Travis Taijeron led off with singles, and a slower grounder by Cory Vaughn moved the two runners up 90 feet. Dan Rohlfing then grounded to third baseman Tim Smalling, whose only play was at first. That scored Conrad to make it 1-0. Gorski then helped his cause by dropping a double into left field to score Taijeron.
In the top of the third the Isotopes tied the game again. With one out Carlos Hernandez walked and one out later Tim Wheeler singled to make it first and second with two outs. Kyle Parker then came to the plate and ripped a Gorski offering into centerfield that he stretched into a double. Both runners scored and the game was tied.
Both pitchers then held serve, allowing no more runs through five. Hernandez day ended after five, allowing six hits and two runs, while striking out four. Gorski also turned the ball over after the fifth, giving up four hits and two walks, while fanning three.
Tommy Kahnle took over in the sixth for Albuquerque. The first batter he faced was Alex Castellanos, who continued his hot hitting from the first game, driving a ball over the left-centerfield wall for a home run. It was his sixth homer of the year, and gave the 51s the 3-2 lead.
In the top of the seventh Duane Below struck out Joey Wong to begin the inning. Chase Bradford then entered to close out the contest. Bradford allowed a single to Wilin Rosario before inducing Brandon Barnes to hit into a double-play to end the game. Below (1-1) evened his record with the win, and Bradford earned his second save of the season.
While the Las Vegas 51s did not have seven doubles in this game, it was the extra-base hit that was the difference. Castellanos finished 3-5, with a run, two RBI, a double and a homer between the two games.
These two teams will face off again on Tuesday, with a 12:05 local start. Chad Bettis (2-1) will head to the mound for the Albuquerque Isotopes, while Tyler Pill (0-0) gets the start for the Las Vegas 51s.
By Robert Pannier