The Las Vegas 51s trailed for much of the game against the Albuquerque Isotopes, falling behind in second inning, but the club continued to battle until they trailed by just one run entering the ninth inning. That is when SS Wilfredo Tovar delivered a clutch two-out hit that sent the 51s to their sixth straight win.
Tyler Pill started for Las Vegas, and he continued to struggle for the 51s. Pill allowed seven hits and five runs in six innings of work, but left the game with a no-decision. His troubles began in the second when Albuquerque plated four-runs. With one out Dustin Garneau singled, and Tim Wheeler walked to put runners on first and second. Angelys Nina followed with a lined smash that cleared the wall in left-centerfield for his first home run of the inning. Pill seemed a little bit flustered by the three-run homer, and it showed when he gave up a home run to the very next batter, Tim Smalling. It was Smalling’s first homer of the season as well, and landed in nearly the same spot as Nina’s shot.
Chad Bettis started for the Isotopes and he was cruising through the first two innings. In the third he got in a little trouble, and it was a walk to Pill that got it going. The 51s starter led off the inning with a walk, and Dilson Herrera followed with a double to leftfield that scored Pill to cut the deficit to three.
In the fifth Las Vegas got two more back. Bettis retired the first two batters of the inning, but Darrell Ceciliani battled in his at-batm eventually singling to rightfield. Alex Castellanos, who has been on a tear of late, followed with his seventh home run of the season, and just like that Las Vegas was within one.
Pill had been pitching well since he gave up the four runs in the second inning, retiring the minimum nine batters from the third through the fifth innings. In the sixth the Isotopes would finally get to him again. Wilin Rosario led off with a double and moved to third one out later on a ground out. Nina then delivered a base hit driving Rosario home and making the score 5-3.
Looking to get a rally going the 51s plated another run in the seventh. With Tommy Kahnle on the hill Herrera led off with a single and advanced to second on an error. Castellanos walked one out later, and Jonny Monell followed with a line out that made it first and second with two outs. It looked like Kahnle might escape from the threat, but Brooks Conrad was able to ground the ball back up the middle to score Herrera and cut the deficit to one again.
That set up the dramatic ninth inning. Jairo Diaz had come on in the eighth to end a rally, and stayed in the game in the ninth. He had entered in the eighth with the bases loaded and no one out, and got his team out of the jam unscathed. Now the Isotopes just needed him to record three outs so they could leave the park with the win.
Monell greeted him with a double, and Conrad followed with a ground out that moved Monell to third. Brandon Allen then popped out to the shortstop, but Kyle Johnson was able to draw the walk to keep the rally alive. That brought Tovar to the plate. Tovar had just one RBI in his last ten games, but he would come up clutch, taking a Diaz pitched and driving it into the gap in centerfield. Both Monell and Johnson came around to score and the Las Vegas 51s had their sixth victory of the season.
Cody Satterwhite (1-0), who had worked two-thirds of an inning, gained the victory. Diaz (1-1) blew the save and took the loss.
The 51s had 14 hits on the afternoon, with six players collecting at least two hits. RF Travis Taijeron had three hits, and Castellanos and Tovar each drove in two. Angelys Nina had three hits and four RBI for Albuquerque.
Both teams are off tomorrow. On Thursday the Albuquerque Isotopes will welcome Salt Lake. The Las Vegas 51s welcome Reno to town.
By Robert Pannier