Ninth Inning Rally Sinks Las Vegas 51s, Chihuahuas Win 3-2
I think most would agree that Chihuahuas are annoying little dogs that are just relentless ankle biters. They “win” by digging at you until you flee just to get away from the annoying little beasts. Who would know that the El Paso club would be that same kind of baseball team on the field? El Paso downed the Las Vegas 51s on Sunday afternoon, rallying for three runs in the ninth inning to win the Pacific Coast League contest 3-2.
This was a pitcher’s duel for much of the afternoon. Las Vegas started Steven Matz, who shutout the Chihuahuas for seven innings. El Paso countered with Jason Lane, who pitched nearly as well, yielding just two runs in six innings of work.
Matz issued lead-off walks in each of the first two innings, but remained in complete control despite giving up a stolen base to each of the runners. In the third he retired the side in order, striking out the first two batters of the inning, and in the fourth he retired the side on three ground outs. He also allowed a two out double in the frame to Tommy Medica, but Medica remained stranded at second.
The El Paso coaching staff really did their homework on Matz. In the bottom of the fifth Rico Noel beat out a bunt for a base hit, and one batter later stole second. It was the third base the Chihuahuas had stolen in the game. Matz would respond as he had all game long, leaving Noel at second.
In the sixth he retired the side in order, but in the seventh he found himself in a bit of trouble for the first time on the afternoon. Ramiro Pena singled with one out, and Noel followed with a single two batters later. That put runners at first and second with two outs, and pinch-hitter Jake Goebbert at the plate. Matz remained calm, blowing Goebbert away to end the threat.
That would also be the last inning for the Las Vegas 51s starter. Matz allowed four hits and two walks in seven innings of work while striking out seven. The seven shutout innings lowered his ERA to 1.70. He showed great command of his stuff on the day, throwing 97 pitches, 66 of which were strikes.
While Matz was dominating on the hill, his team staked the 51s starter to a lead with two runs in the fourth. With two outs Cory Vaughn walked, and Dan Rohlfing followed with his first home run of the season. The two-run home run was a lined shot that cleared the wall in centerfield to give Las Vegas a 2-0 lead.
Lane had lived dangerously all game long, and the two-run home run finally came back to haunt him. Otherwise he proved to be Houdini on the mound, giving up six hits and five walks in six innings, but allowing just the two runs. It was an amazing feat considering that he struck out just one batter, and proved that even when he does not have his best stuff going for him he can still be a tough pitcher to face.
The score remained 2-0 until the ninth. Las Vegas manager began the frame with reliever Jack Leathersich. The lefty retired the first batter, and then Backman turned to closer Chase Bradford. Prior to the El Paso series, Bradford had not been scored upon this season, but after giving up two runs on Saturday, he returned to the mound looking to get the final two outs to close out the game.
The Chihuahuas were ready to act like the annoying little dogs they are named after. El Paso rapped four straight hits, as Media, Pena, Alex Dickerson and Noel each singled. Dickerson drove home Medica and Noel plated Pena to tie the game. A walk to Taylor Lindsey loaded the bases, and Rymer Liriano then came to the plate. He hit a slow roller to the shortstop whose only play was at first, and the winning run crossed the plate to give El Paso the 3-2 victory.
Bradford (0-1) blew his first save of the season and also took the loss. Cory Mazzoni (1-0) earned the win with two shutout innings of work.
These two teams meet again Monday night at 6:35 local time. Tyler Pill (0-0, 8.14) will go for the Las Vegas 51s.
By Robert Pannier