The 51s’ offense, after being mostly dormant in five games in El Paso, came alive Tuesday in the home opener.
They had a chance to continue that in the first inning Wednesday and make a statement, quickly loading the bases with one out.
Instead, they bounced into an inning-ending double play.
“That was really a big chance for us to basically set the tone and kind of let them know ‘We’re not over,’ especially after the game we had last night offensively,” Las Vegas manager Pedro Lopez said. “We didn’t get that hit when we needed to.”
Instead, the Fresno Grizzlies rode a big inning of their own, defeating the 51s 7-4 on Wednesday night at Cashman Field.
After the 51s (3-4) couldn’t capitalize in the first inning, Fresno laid into starter Ricky Knapp in the second.
First baseman A.J. Reed singled off Knapp to begin the inning. After Tyler White struck out, Preston Tucker started the scoring with a two-run homer.
The Grizzlies (4-3) also scored runs on Juan Centeno’s double, Tony Kemp’s RBI groundout and Colin Moran’s single.
“I thought that Ricky didn’t have his best stuff tonight and he just got hurt,” Lopez said. “He came out of the game after the second inning, and that basically set the tone for everything else.”
Knapp’s night ended after 54 pitches, more than 40 in the second inning.
Lopez said there was an organizational rule in the minors preventing pitchers from throwing more than 40 pitches in an inning.
“He just missed up in the zone. He’s a sinkerball pitcher, he’s a guy that pitches down in the zone and unfortunately he didn’t have his best stuff,” Lopez said. “But I’ve seen him at his best. I’ve seen him pitch real good.”
The 51s played catch-up from then on.
“We’re playing in Vegas, so really a five-run lead is nothing, so that’s how we look at it,” 51s left fielder Matt Reynolds said.
But that five-run lead was insurmountable, even though the 51s chipped away at it.
In the second, Jayce Boyd doubled in Xorge Carrillo, and in the fourth, the 51s got another run on Travis Taijeron’s second home run of the season.
In the seventh, after the Grizzlies had tacked on another run, Las Vegas scored on Reynolds’ single and Amed Rosario’s sacrifice fly, cutting the Fresno lead to 6-4.
They brought the tying run to the plate, but Dominic Smith struck out to end the threat.
“We didn’t get that big hit when we needed to, but I feel like the at-bats were good,” Lopez said. “We were grinding out at-bats and we were trying.”
Gavin Cecchini led the team with three hits, and Reynolds and Jayce Boyd each had two.
It was another positive sign for the 51s, especially for Cecchini and Reynolds, who have picked it up at the plate after slow starts.
“After spring training, there was a bit of a layover where you have four days off of not seeing any live pitching, so that had a little bit to do with it and I’m starting to feel comfortable in the box again,” Reynolds said.
But even though the 51s had some positives at the plate, the missed opportunities came around to bite them.
“It’s not only about our approach,” Lopez said. “You’ve just got to give credit to their pitchers. They did a good job tonight. We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and do it all over again.”
Who: Fresno at 51s
When: 7:05 p.m. today
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Brady Rodgers (1-0, 1.50), Grizzlies, vs. Donovan Hand (0-1, 10.13 ERA)
Friday: Fresno at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 12:05 p.m.
Monday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Las Vegas at Fresno, 6:35 p.m.
Fresno starter Brady Rodgers went 2-1 against the 51s last season. He gave up four runs in 20 innings while striking out 13. All three outings were quality starts.
Contact Betsy Helfand at email@example.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.