The 51s’s offense had been mostly silent the whole game.
But by the time the eighth inning rolled around, it started to emerge, with the team cutting into El Paso’s lead.
At one point, Las Vegas were losing by four. But in the top of the eighth, after scoring two runs, it brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Travis Taijeron.
He grounded into a double play. The next half inning, El Paso’s offense put the game out of reach with three more runs off Erik Goeddel.
The Chihuahuas (3-1) won 7-2 on Sunday at Southwest University Park, sending the 51s (1-3) to their second straight loss.
“We didn’t get that big hit when we needed to,” manager Pedro Lopez said. “We’re still searching for that big hit with men in scoring position, but it’s early.”
The 51s finished the day 1-for-8 in scoring position and are now 2-for-33 overall.
After Josh Rodriguez homered to begin the eighth, Matt Reynolds, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith had three straight hits, with Smith’s hit plating a run.
Taijeron’s double play came after Smith’s at-bat and it was the second time the 51s grounded into an inning-ending double play in the game.
“They have done a good job keeping us off balance,” Lopez said of El Paso’s pitching. “They’ve done a good job spotting their pitches and at the same time, whenever we’ve got them on the ropes, I don’t want to use the word giving up at-bats, but I think we’re just going away from our game plan a little bit.”
Top prospects Rosario and Smith have been bright spots offensively in the early going, each adding two hits in the loss Sunday, but overall, the team has scored seven runs in its first four games.
“I know for a fact it’s not lack of concentration,” Lopez said. “I think the guys are doing a really good job preparing themselves and they’re going about it the right way. They might be trying to do too much at the beginning, putting up those numbers and they might be going away from the game plan.”
Sunday, the offense was trying to play catch up the whole time.
Starter Sean Gilmartin gave up a pair of runs in the second inning, putting them behind early, but Lopez was pleased with how he finished his outing.
Gilmartin, who was held to a pitch count around 60, gave up three runs in his 3 ⅓ innings pitched.
The first was to El Paso Jamie Romak, who got the scoring going early for the Chihuahuas with a home run a day after he hit two.
Gilmartin adjusted and got him to pop out in his next at-bat.
“He popped him up to first base and I told him, I said ‘That’s exactly how we’ve got to pitch him. We’ve got to bust him in hard,” Lopez said. “I told Gilly ‘I was just hope that somebody was watching, the guys were watching because that’s the way we’re supposed to pitch him.’ ”
Reliever Logan Taylor tried to do that, but Romak victimized him next.
“(Taylor) tried to do the same thing, go hard in and left the ball over the middle of the plate and (Romak) ended up hitting a double,” Lopez said. “It’s a good hitter, strong hitter, power guy and we’ve got to make sure we execute.”
Romak’s double in the fifth gave the Chihuahuas the 4-0 lead that they carried into the eighth when the 51s started to come alive. But by the time they did, it was too little, too late.
“The guys are still trying to get their feet underneath them and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day offensively and then we can carry that over to Vegas when we have the opener,” Lopez said.
Contact Betsy Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.
Who: 51s at El Paso Chihuahuas
When: 10:05 a.m. today
Where: Southwest University Park, El Paso, Texas
Starters: 51s, Wilfredo Boscan (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Chihuahuas, TBA
Tuesday: Fresno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Fresno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Fresno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Fresno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
The 51s’ roster is now back up to the maximum 25 after pitcher Cory Burns was reassigned from Double-A Binghamton to Las Vegas. Burns, who pitched in independent ball last year, was signed by the Mets in the offseason. He takes Paul Sewald’s roster spot. The Mets called up Sewald, a Bishop Gorman High product, on Friday and made the move official on Saturday.