Four-run sixth dooms 51s in loss to Aces

There were plenty of frustrating moments for the 51s on Friday and most them came in the sixth inning.

First there was a leadoff walk to a reliever.

And then a ball that Phillip Evans couldn’t convert to a double play which instead went for an infield single.

And then one that was bunted that pitcher Matt Purke threw away, allowing two runs to score and the Aces to retake the lead.

And in the next inning, after scoring one run, the 51s couldn’t capitalize with the bases loaded and nobody out.

And as a result of all of those things, the 51s fell 11-8 to Reno in the series opener at Greater Nevada Field.

“The No. 1, walking the pitcher, that’s a cardinal rule in the game. You don’t do that,” manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “So you lead (with) the walk. The ball was hit hard, we didn’t turn a double play. We don’t execute the bunt and then before you know it, it’s four runs on the board. As quick as three to four batters, they’re back in the game again.”

Before Reno (50-49) broke through with a four-run sixth inning, the 51s had battled back from a 7-1 deficit.

Starter Drew Gagnon was battered around early on, giving up five runs in the first inning and two in the second.

Gagnon wound up pitching five innings and giving up the seven runs on 10 hits while striking out nine.

“I think early he didn’t use his offspeed as well,” DeFrancesco said. “He had a good changeup for strikeouts later on. He made mistakes up over the plate, couple base hits and a big hit in this place happens real fast so they were able to string a few hits together.”

But the 51s (46-53) were able to claw their way back from the hole he put them in, scoring six runs between the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth, Patrick Kivlehan hit a grand slam to narrow the lead and an inning later, Peter Alonso hit a two-run blast to tie the game up.

“I thought (it was) a great comeback. We got back in the game. We tied it up,” DeFrancesco said. “We got some big hits, a grand slam, a two-run homer by Peter Alonso. Kivlehan had a real good game today, swung the bat well.”

But thanks to the ill-fated sixth inning, the 51s never were able to retake the lead.

After Purke overthrew a throw to third on the sacrifice bunt attempt and two runs scored, Reno added two more on a Christian Walker RBI double and Cesar Puello run-scoring single.

Walker, last year’s Pacific Coast League MVP, did a bulk of the Reno damage on the night, going 4-for-5 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Walker hit a two-RBI double, two-run blast and another RBI double for the Aces.

Most of the 51s’ offense was concentrated in the middle of the lineup as the 4-5-6 hitters — Zach Borenstein, Alonso and Kivlehan — drove in all eight of the team’s runs on the night.

And though those three helped the team come back once, the 51s couldn’t do so again the later innings, bouncing into double plays in both the seventh and eighth innings in the loss.

“We had a chance, we left the bases loaded,” DeFrancesco said. “We only scored one run with nobody out but guys competed all the way through the end there.”

More 51s: Follow Las Vegas 51s coverage at reviewjournal.com/51s and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Betsy Helfand at bhelfand@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.

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