The 51s led for most of Saturday night’s game.
But when it mattered most, they again were staring at a deficit, losing for the ninth time in 11 games.
The Omaha Storm Chasers scored five runs in the eighth inning off the Las Vegas bullpen en route to a 7-3 victory at Cashman Field.
The 51s (15-21) had clung to a 1-0 lead since the second inning when Desmond Jennings homered to left off Omaha starter Jake Junis. The homer was his third in three games and extended his hitting streak to 11.
“(It) started out as a really good game, and just unfortunately after (Josh) Smoker came out of the game, from there on out it went south,” Las Vegas manager Pedro Lopez said. “We had a tough time getting the bats going, and the bullpen (gave up) too many walks.”
The bullpen allowed six walks, though the 51s didn’t get hurt by the four that Logan Taylor gave up in his one inning.
The walks that killed them came in the eighth when Kevin McGowan walked two to begin the inning. He struck out one before Lopez pulled him for left-hander Dave Roseboom.
Roseboom allowed a game-tying single to center. The Storm Chasers (17-17) took a 2-1 lead on a safety squeeze by Ryan O’Hearn. They scored another run on Bubba Starling’s single and two on Dean Anna’s double for a 5-1 lead.
Roseboom gave up two more runs in the ninth.
“(He was) too inconsistent in the strike zone and made some mistakes up in the zone and got hit,” Lopez said. “But I don’t think the inning develops the way it did if McGowan doesn’t walk the first two batters of the inning. Walks are going to kill you. You’re going to get hurt. You walk people, and the outcome is not going to be what we want it.”
It was a tale of two games for the 51s, as Smoker cruised through the first 4 2/3 innings.
Smoker, normally a reliever, started the season with the New York Mets and posted a 7.88 ERA in 15 appearances before he was sent down to work on his offspeed pitches.
The results from Smoker’s outing were good. He allowed two hits — one an infield hit — and struck out three in his 4 2/3 innings.
“I thought he did a really good job mixing his pitches,” Lopez said. “He worked ahead, and he did what he was supposed to do. One of the reasons why he’s here is to work on his secondary pitches, and I thought he did that tonight.”
Smoker said the plan is to make a few starts in Triple A unless the Mets need relief help. He was pleased with the first one.
“It felt great,” he said. “I wasn’t really letting it go that much. I was trying to work more on command and getting a little bit better feel for my slider and changeup, and I think I accomplished that. It was definitely different from what I was used to just because it had been so long since I started, but I was really happy with it, and it was also nice just to kind of mix it up a little bit with what role I have.”
Smoker was limited to 61 pitches. From there, the 51s’ bullpen imploded and the offense didn’t do its job.
But Lopez saw positive signs a day after holding a team meeting.
“I thought the guys, they came out, they got the work in, they got ready for the game and just unfortunately it didn’t pay off, but that’s the beauty of this game,” Lopez said. “It didn’t happen tonight. We’ll get an opportunity to do it tomorrow again, and hopefully we’ll have the outcome that’s in our favor.”
Who: Omaha Storm Chasers at 51s
When: 12:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Luke Farrell (3-1, 4.13 ERA), Omaha, vs. Ricky Knapp (1-3, 5.31 ERA)
Monday: Iowa at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Iowa at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Iowa at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Iowa at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Las Vegas at New Orleans, 5 p.m.
Knapp will look to bounce back from a tough start in which he allowed six runs on eight hits in five innings and took the loss against Albuquerque. Farrell is the son of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Contact Betsy Helfand at email@example.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.