Las Vegas 51s Hold off Late Rally for 8-7 Win
The Las Vegas 51s entered their Pacific Coast League contest with the Reno Aces reeling from a three-game losing streak. They needed to get off to a good start if they were going to take down the Northern Division leaders, and that is exactly what they did. The 51s jumped out to a five-run lead, then had to hold off a late rally to win 8-7 Thursday night in Reno.
The game could not have gotten off any better for Las Vegas. After Dilson Herrera grounded out to lead-off the game, Darrell Cecilani drew a walk from Aces starter A.J. Schugel. Matt Reynolds then grounded out to short, advancing Cecilani to second, and it looked like Reno was going to enter the bottom half of the inning unscathed. The heart of the 51s order had different ideas however.
Johnny Monell followed with a sharp single to right field that scored Ceciliani, giving Las Vegas the 1-0 lead. Travis Taijeron then came to the plate and promptly deposited his fifth home run of the season over the right-centerfield wall to make it 3-0.
In the bottom of the first, CF Mike Freeman got one of the runs right back. Leading off the home half of the first he drilled a Rafael Montero offering deep to centerfield for his second home run of the year. Montero settled down, however, retiring the next three batters in order.
The score remained 3-1 until the top of the third when Las Vegas would get back on the scoreboard. Taijeron singled to lead off the inning, and was forced out at second on a groundout by Brandon Allen. That put Allen at first with one out. William Tovar followed with a line drive single to left field, and the 51s were getting a rally going. Kyle Johnson then hit a ground ball to 3B Nick Evans who threw to second baseman Jamie Romak to force Tovar, but Romak could not turn the double-play, making it first and third with two outs. That brought Montero to the plate, who helped his own cause by singling up the middle, scoring Allen.
In the top of the fourth it looked like the 51s were going to break the game wide open. Schugel retired the first two batters of the inning, but Johnny Monell got the 51s back on the scoreboard with a deep shot over the left field fence for his third homer of the year. Taijeron followed with his third hit of the game, and scored when Allen lined a double into the alley in left field. That made the score 6-1 and ended the starter’s day on the hill.
Staked to a five-run lead, Montero took to the hill in the bottom of the fourth. He had pitched well through the first three innings, but in the fourth he quickly found himself in some trouble. Romak led off with a lined single to left, and Peter O’Brien followed with a fly ball to left field that hit off the wall for a triple. That scored Romak and cut the lead to four. Nick Evans then singled scoring O’Brien. Montero then struck out the next batter, but back-to-back singles by Cody Ransom and Garrett Weber plated another run, and just like that Reno was within two and still had runners on first and second with one out. Montero looked like he was reeling, but the right-hander showed a lot of poise, inducing Blake Lalli to hit into a double-play to end the threat.
The 51s responded in the top of the fifth. Johnson led off with his second double of the season, and one out later Herrera walked to make it first and second and one out. With Ceciliani at the plate, manager Wally Backman called for both runners to run, and Johnson and Herrera each reached safely on the stolen base. That move paid off as Ceciliani flied out to centerfield, scoring Johnson and staking Las Vegas to a three-run lead.
In the top of the seventh the 51s would extend their lead, and it would seem like de ja vu all over again. Johnson led off the inning with another double to centerfield, and advanced to third one out later on a single by Herrera. Ceciliani then recorded another fly out to center scoring Johnson and pushing the lead to four.
In the bottom of the eighth John Church took the mound to start his third inning of work, but he would be replaced after the first three batters reached base on singles; the last of which drove home Kevin Frandsen. That brought Chase Bradford in to relieve.
The righty induced a force out that scored Freeman to make it 8-6. Nick Evans then drilled a double over the centerfielder’s head to score O’Brien and it was 8-7. It was turning into a real nail-biter, with Evans at second and just one out. Zach Borenstein then grounded out to second to advance Evans to third, and Bradford closed out the inning by getting Cody Ransom to ground out to second as well.
In the bottom of the ninth the drama would continue, as Bradford gave up back-to-back singles to Lalli and Matt Pagnozzi to put the tying run at third with one out. However, Bradford got Freeman to hit a grounder to 3B Wilfredo Tovar, who made a brilliant play, throwing home to nail the runner. Romak then struck out swinging and the 51s were the ones who came up aces.
Montero (1-0) earned his first win of the season, and Bradford recorded his first save. Montero allowed six hits in five innings of work, with four strikeouts and no walks. Church pitched two perfect innings before giving up the three straight singles to start the eighth. Bradford allowed three hits in two innings of work. Schugel (0-2) took the loss for Reno.
The Las Vegas 51s pounded out 16 hits on the evening. All but two starters had at least two hits in the game, including Montero. Both Monell and Taijeron had three hits, two runs scored and two RBI. Johnson also scored two runs.
Friday the club continues their series against the Reno Aces. Noah Syndegaard (0-0) takes to the hill against Vidal Nuno (2-0). Game time is 6:35 local time.
By Robert Pannier