Las Vegas 51s Late Rally Falls Short, River Cats Win 6-5
For seven innings it looked like the Sacramento River Cats had clawed their way to an easy victory. Leading 6-0, the visitors were dominating the Las Vegas 51s behind the pitching of Clayton Blackburn, but a five-run eighth inning brought the crowd to their feet and surely left the River Cats with a little acid reflux before the night was over.
Duane Below started for Las Vegas. He entered the game with a sub-two ERA, and had looked darn near invincible this season, but he would struggle on Thursday night. The River Cats tagged him for two runs in the first. Hunter Pence singled with two outs, and Travis Ishikawa followed with his third double of the year putting Pence at third. Adam Duvall followed with a single that scored two runs and Sacramento had the early lead.
In the third the River Cats would extend that lead using the long ball as their primary weapon. Brett Jackson led off the inning with a home run over the right field fence to make it 3-0. Ehire Adrianza followed with a single, and Pence then drilled one over the left-center field fence to make it 5-0. It was Pence’s second home run since joining Sacramento on a rehab assignment.
In the fifth the visiting club would plate one more. Jackson singled to lead off the inning, and moved to second when Adrianza walked. One out later, Ishikawa lined a single into right field that scored Jackson. The run seemed like piling on at the time. Who knew it would be the difference in the game.
While his teammates were staking him to six runs, Blackburn was dominating the Las Vegas’ bats. In the three innings his team scored runs he shut the door by retiring the Las Vegas hitters in order in each frame. In the second inning he allowed a lead-off walk followed by a single, but a double-play ended that threat. In the fourth, the Sacramento starter gave up a two-out double and in the sixth he gave up a lead-off single, but that was all the offense the Las Vegas could muster against the right-hander.
Blackburn was done after six innings. He allowed just three hits and a walk, while striking out six. The win evened his record at 1-1.
Mike Broadway relieved for Sacramento in the seventh and retired the side, leaving it 6-0 entering the eighth inning. That brought Steven Okert to the hill. Okert quickly learned that these 51s are never really out of a game.
Wilfredo Tovar led off the frame with a single, and would promptly steal second base. Kyle Johnson pinch hit for the pitcher and drilled a lined shot over the left field wall for his first home run of the year. Matt Reynolds and Darrell Ceciliani followed with back-to-back singles and the threat was getting real. Eric Campbell lined a double into the gap in left field, scoring Reynolds and cutting the deficit to two. Brooks Conrad drew a walk to load that bases and that would be it for Okert.
The bases were loaded and no one was out. Hunter Strickland was brought in try to gain control back for Sacramento and he came through. Brandon Allen grounded into a force out that scored Ceciliani and put Campbell at third and Allen at first. One out later a wild pitch scored Campbell to make it 6-5. Strickland struck out the final batter of the inning to end the threat and keep his team clinging to a one-run lead.
In the ninth the Sacramento reliever retired the Las Vegas 51s in order. It was his fourth save of the season. Blackburn earned the win, and Below (2-2) took the loss.
These same two teams will meet again Friday night. The Sacramento River Cats send Robert Coello (4-1, 3.98) to the hill. The Las Vegas 51s counter with Steven Matz (4-1, 1.70). Game time is 7:05 local time.
By Robert Pannier