A cast of familiar faces and new characters took the field as the Las Vegas 51s, for the last time as a New York Mets’ affiliate, opened their season on Thursday night.
Cashman Field was dressed up for Opening Day with bunting along the railings and a painted “2018 Opening Week” logo behind home plate as an announced crowd of 7,292 fans took in a 4-2 loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas.
“The pieces are here, we’ve just got to try to come together,” new manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “Today is just one of those days. I think tomorrow we’ll settle in and have another quality game.”
Las Vegas fell behind in the first inning after starter Corey Oswalt, making his Triple-A debut, gave up two singles and uncorked a wild pitch.
The 51s (0-1) tied the game up in the next inning after Jose Lobaton drove in Luis Guillorme with a line drive to right.
But the 51s fell behind in the third, after a Franmil Reyes two-run double to left was ruled fair and two runs scored.
“I went and looked at it,” DeFrancesco said. “It landed right on the line on the outside part of the chalk. It’s just a game of inches, as they say.”
The three runs were all that Oswalt, the Mets’ No. 16 prospect per MLBPipeline, would give up in his four-inning outing. He struck out five in his 80-pitch start.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I had a little trouble commanding some of my secondary pitches today but I thought I made some pitches when I had to. I made couple of bad pitches which were pretty much the difference. I was kind of getting deep into counts, but overall I went up there and competed.”
Behind him, though, Oswalt didn’t get much run support.
The 51s managed just five hits in the game with their second run coming on a pinch-hit L.J. Mazzilli double in the fourth inning which drove in David Thompson, who doubled earlier in the inning.
El Paso (1-0) starter Eric Lauer went six innings, giving up the two runs on five hits while striking out six.
“Typical lefty, changed speed, tried to elevate some fastballs early,” DeFrancesco said. “Got a couple quick innings to get him through the game but that’s a guy that hopefully we can do a better job staying off some of his balls up in the zone.”
After him, three different relievers threw hitless innings for El Paso.
The 51s got solid performances from their bullpen, too. Three different pitchers tossed scoreless outings and the Chihuahuas scored one run — on a solo home run to Javy Guerra — off lefty Kyle Regnault.
“It was a great game overall. We didn’t get the big hit when we needed it but it was good to see Oswalt get his feet wet. The whole bullpen got work today. Tomorrow’s another day,” DeFrancesco said. “Hopefully we go out and we’re still trying to win a series as we move along.”
And now, after six weeks in Florida, the 51s can start to get into the flow of things with the anticipation of Opening Day behind them.
“It’s an exciting time,” Oswalt said. “I was fortunate enough to start Opening Day today but it’s nice to get it done. Now it’s onto the next one and we’ll be able to get a good routine going now.”