Before the 51s recorded an out Thursday, they had scored six runs.
So it certainly didn’t seem as if the game would hinge upon a perfect throw from left fielder Roger Bernadina in the bottom of the ninth inning to cut down what would have been the tying run.
The 51s escaped with a 7-6 Pacific Coast League victory over Colorado Springs at Security Service Field, but not before the Sky Sox made a game of it.
The Sky Sox clawed their way back from a six-run deficit, thanks in part to a strong showing from their bullpen, which had to account for 8 2/3 innings after the 51s immediately jumped on starter Taylor Jungmann.
Jungmann struggled with his control in the first inning, walking three and hitting a batter, and left after getting just one out.
“We had a great game plan against the starter,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said. “He’s been wild. His WHIP was real high, and so we were basically playing base-to-base and looking for pitches down the middle of the plate.”
After the first two batters walked, T.J. Rivera and Johnny Monell both drove in runs on singles before Travis Taijeron hit a three-run homer and Ty Kelly followed with a solo shot.
“We were a very unaggressive team swinging the bats at the start of the game, and that’s how we knocked him out of the game,” Backman said. “He was behind in the counts every time.”
But the Sky Sox chipped away, scoring two runs in the first, one in the third, one in the fifth and two in the seventh.
51s starter Rafael Montero, coming off two straight scoreless performances and a week in which he was named PCL Pitcher of the Week, made it through five innings, giving up four runs on eight hits with two walks.
“He struggled with his command,” Backman said. “He fought his way through five innings. That’s the best way I can say it because I have not seen him pitch behind in the count that much in a start, I think, in a couple years.”
Backman said Montero was falling off the mound and added that the conditions in Colorado Springs weren’t good.
“(Pitching coach Frank Viola) kept talking to him between innings,” Backman said. “He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in the past, but for me, it shows a good sign because he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been his last two or three starts, but he kept us in the game.”
Montero left with a chance for the win, but the Sky Sox tied the game in the seventh inning, scoring two runs off Zack Thornton.
The game was tied just briefly, though, as the 51s manufactured a run in the eighth with a walk, sacrifice bunt and two singles.
Rivera went 4-for-5 and drove in the first run and the last, singling for his fourth hit and PCL-leading 36th RBI.
After that, closer Paul Sewald pitched the ninth to nail down the 51s’ fourth consecutive victory — receiving help from Bernadina in the process.
“Probably the biggest play was Bernadina throwing the guy out at home plate in the ninth,” Backman said. “They challenged him. Every time I see someone challenge Bernadina, he throws a guy out at home.”