On the final $1 beer night of the season at Cashman Field, Reno left-hander Andrew Chafin crashed the party, silencing the 51s’ bats and the crowd of 3,063 in a masterful performance.
Chafin, ranked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ No. 6 prospect by MLB.com, fired a four-hit shutout as the Aces dealt the 51s a 6-0 defeat Thursday to even their Pacific Coast League Conference Championship Series at a game apiece.
“He definitely kept us off balance all night long,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said. “He got ahead in the count then was able to expand the zone on us, and we chased.
“Offensively, we just didn’t make any adjustments against him.”
Chafin set down the side in order in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings. He faced only one batter over the minimum through eight innings and three over for the game. The 24-year-old allowed singles to Taylor Teagarden in the second, Anthony Seratelli in the sixth and Kevin Plawecki in the eighth, but all were retired on double plays.
“It was definitely a very efficient day,” said Chafin, who had five strikeouts, no walks and threw 67 of his 99 pitches for strikes. “We were able to get ahead of guys, make pitches and get double plays.
“We got them into swing mode and we were able to get bad swings.”
The 51s put their first two runners on in the ninth, when Seratelli singled and Allan Dykstra was hit by a pitch. But Chafin retired Cesar Puello on a fielder’s choice, then struck out Matt Reynolds and Andrew Brown to end it.
“He moved the ball around and got guys a little off balance,” Seratelli said. “He was throwing a lot of strikes — that was the main thing — so he was forcing us to swing.
“We just didn’t get it done tonight. We’ll get them (today).”
The best-of-5 series shifts to Aces Ballpark in Reno at 7:05 p.m. today for Game 3. Las Vegas right-hander Noah Syndergaard will oppose Aces righty Bradin Hagens.
Former 51s first baseman Mike Jacobs supplied all the runs Reno needed in the first inning, when he launched a grand slam to left field off of Las Vegas starter Matthew Bowman.
“That’s not what we were expecting,” Backman said of Bowman, who was 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA for the 51s in the regular season. “That’s his first playoff game. He was a little bit nervous. He settled down and threw a little bit better after the first inning, but the damage was done.”
Jacobs, who had 32 homers and 93 RBIs for the Florida Marlins in 2008, has been on a power surge down the stretch for the Aces, with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last six regular-season games.
“The ball Jacobs hit out, he really didn’t hit the ball that good. He just kind of got it up in the wind,” Backman said. “That really set the tone for them.”
Bowman, who split time between Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton this season, had allowed only nine runs in six regular-season starts for the 51s before giving up five runs in a third of an inning of relief Sunday against Albuquerque.
The first inning didn’t go much better Thursday, as he allowed a leadoff single to Nick Ahmed and walked Roger Kieschnick and Andy Marte to set the stage for Jacobs, who hit the first pitch he saw out of the park.
“I was a little out of sorts,” Bowman, 23, said. “I couldn’t really find a feel for the fastball, so I missed some locations and fell behind, then they punished me for it.”
Ahmed, who had three hits, added a solo shot off Bowman in the fourth and Chafin also had two hits for the Aces, who split their season series with Las Vegas 8-8 for the fourth time in six years and tied the 51s for the PCL’s best record (81-63).
“It’s gonna be a good series,” said Backman, the PCL Manager of the Year. “You’ve got to make adjustments on certain guys.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.