Xorge Carrillo slammed the door on the Fresno Grizzlies in multiple ways on Tuesday night.
First the catcher hit a mammoth grand slam staking the 51s (47-76) to a 5-1 lead. Then with Las Vegas clinging to a 6-5 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Carrillo hustled to the backstop to retrieve a dropped third strike and threw to first in the nick of time, preserving the 51s’ victory in the opener of a four-game Pacific Coast League series at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California.
“Big hit by Carrillo tonight,” 51s manager Pedro Lopez said of his catcher’s towering drive with the bases loaded in the fourth that capped a five-run 51s’ flurry off losing pitcher Cy Sneed of Elko, who was making his Triple-A debut.
But Carrillo’s peg to first base that nipped Preston Tucker, who had struck out on a nasty splitter from Jamie Callahan, proved nearly as big.
“Callahan’s ball was moving a little more than usual, and it got away from Carrillo,” Lopez said. “It went to the backstop and luckily he made a good throw.”
It has been a trying season, Lopez said. But anytime you win a game such as Tuesday’s, with its many ebbs and flows and mood swings — Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco was ejected for the first time this season for arguing with umpire John Libka in the fourth inning — it’s a good win.
The Grizzlies (69-54) are battling for first place in the Pacific Division, and the last time the teams met, Fresno outscored the 51s 69-21 and won three of four at Cashman Field.
“With the call-ups and everything else that has been going on this year, the guys are doing a much better job, playing better, finishing strong,” Gomez said after Las Vegas won its third game of five on the current road trip.
It also was a sloppy win as the 51s committed three errors behind starting pitcher Donovan Hand, who lasted five innings. Hand allowed four runs, three earned. Kyle Regnault yielded one run in an effective three-inning relief stint. Jamie Callahan pitched the ninth, striking out two to earn his first save of the season in three tries.
“Hand did a real good job early until we made a couple of mistakes behind him that got him into trouble. But he made pitches to get himself out of trouble,” said Lopez, who also was complimentary of Regnault’s and Callahan’s work out of the bullpen.
Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds each had two hits for Las Vegas, which was outhit 10-9. Cecchini tripled in the seventh and scored the winning run on Reynolds’ infield nubber that went for a single after Fresno had forged a 5-5 tie.
The Grizzlies got on the board in the third, cashing in on two errors to score an unearned run against Hand. After Carrillo’s tape-measure shot, A.J. Reed hit his 26th home run for Fresno in the bottom of the fourth. The Grizzlies tacked on two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to pull even.
Before the game it was announced the parent New York Mets had signed former major leaguers Travis Snider and Neil Wagner to minor league contracts. Both are expected to report to the 51s.
Snider, 29, was an outfielder for the Blue Jays, Pirates and Orioles. Wagner, a 33-year-old right-handed pitcher, had big league stints with the Blue Jays and A’s.
Who: 51s at Fresno Grizzlies
When: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California
Thursday: Las Vegas at Fresno, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Las Vegas at Fresno, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Salt Lake at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Salt Lake at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: Salt Lake at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
With the 51s mired in last place comes this tidbit of encouraging news: Saturday is Kris Bryant bobblehead night at Cashman Field. The first 2,500 spectators through the turnstiles will receive a bobblehead likeness of the 2017 National League MVP wearing his Bonanza High School uniform. The Bryant bobblehead will come in two poses: hitting stance and fielding stance.
Contact Ron Kantowski at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.