The son of Lee Mazzilli — who had two key hits for the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series — L.J. Mazzilli delivered the decisive hit for the 51s in their 5-4 win over the Reno Aces in their Pacific Coast League playoff opener on Wednesday night before 4,083 at Cashman Field.
Mazzilli ripped a tiebreaking RBI single to left field in the eighth inning to score Cory Vaughn, who was hit by a pitch by Zeke Spruill to start the inning and went to second on a groundout by Danny Muno.
Reno manager Phil Nevin elected to intentionally walk pinch hitter Bobby Abreu to face Mazzilli, who was called up by Las Vegas from Single-A St. Lucie on Monday and was playing in only his second Triple-A game.
Gonzalez Germen retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out Michael Freeman swinging to end it and give the 51s a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 PCL Conference Championship Series.
Las Vegas right-hander Matthew Bowman opposes Reno left-hander Andrew Chafin at 7:05 p.m. today in Game 2 at Cashman.
“We got the big hit by Mazzilli. It was the biggest hit of the season for us,” said 51s manager Wally Backman, who received a text from Lee Mazzilli, his former Mets teammate, after the game. “Me and his dad are tight. He was the first one to text me. He told me, ‘The kid can hit.’ ”
L.J. Mazzilli, aka “the kid,” said: “I was a little anxious to be honest with you. I tried to slow it down a little bit and do whatever I can to put the ball in play. I got down 0-2, he left a curveball up and I was able to put it through.
“It’s pretty sick. I was amped up.”
The Aces had tied the game at 4-all in the eighth when Nick Ahmed drilled a leadoff triple high off the wall in left-center and scored on a sacrifice fly by Roger Kieschnick.
In the seventh, the 51s rallied for a run with two outs to go ahead 4-3. Matt Reynolds singled and Andrew Brown walked before Brandon Allen hit a pinch-hit RBI single to right-center.
Kevin Plawecki tied it 3-3 for Las Vegas with a leadoff solo homer to left in the sixth.
Rated the New York Mets’ No. 5 prospect by Baseball America, the 23-year-old catcher batted .283 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 43 games for Las Vegas after getting promoted June 25 from Double-A Binghamton.
The 51s scored twice in the fifth to close to 3-2. Vaughn crushed a leadoff solo shot to right-center and Muno and Anthony Seratelli drew walks to chase Clayton Richard — who gave up two runs on three hits in four innings, with four walks and two strikeouts.
Patrick Schuster retired pinch hitter Allan Dykstra on a rocket shot to left that was caught at the wall by Dorn. Cesar Puello greeted reliever Jess Todd by ripping an RBI single to left. Todd intentionally walked Brown to load the bases for Taylor Teagarden, who flied to right.
Reno scored two in the fifth to go ahead 3-0. Kieschnick reached on an infield single and took third on a one-out single by Mike Jacobs. Danny Dorn lifted an 0-2 pitch by Rafael Montero into right field for an RBI single. Garrett Weber walked to load the bases and chase Montero, who threw 103 pitches while allowing three runs on seven hits and an uncharacteristic four walks, with six strikeouts.
John Lannan relieved and walked Freeman to make it 3-0. He escaped further damage by striking out Blake Lalli and Richard, who fouled off several pitches in an 11-pitch at-bat before going down swinging.
Weber lined a leadoff solo shot to right-center in the second to put the Aces ahead.
Richard, a big-league veteran who twice won 14 games for the San Diego Padres (in 2010 and 2012), held the 51s to two hits in the first four innings, inducing inning-ending double plays in the second and fourth and stranding Montero at second in the third after the pitcher drilled a one-out double to center.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.
Las Vegas 51s vs. Reno Aces
PCL Conference Championship
-Game 1: 51s 5, Aces 4
– Thursday, Game 2: At Cashman Field, 7:05 p.m.
– Friday: Game 3: At Reno, 7:05 p.m.
– Saturday: Game 4: At Reno, 7:05 p.m.*
– Sunday: Game 5: At Reno, 6:05 p.m.*
* if necessary