Things had been going well for 51s pitching. Before Saturday, that is.
The 51s had given up a total of six runs in their first two games. On Saturday night, their pitchers walked seven and surrendered four solo home runs on their way to an 8-3 loss to El Paso at Cashman Field.
The 51s led twice in the early innings but both leads were quickly wiped out with home runs.
In the first inning, the Chihuahuas (2-1) lost a popup, allowing Dominic Smith to reach second with a double. The next batter, Bryce Brentz, made them pay with an RBI single.
But Chris Flexen, making his first start in Triple A after jumping straight to the majors from Double A last season, gave up that lead in the second on Franmil Reyes’ solo home run for El Paso.
After the 51s (1-2) jumped back ahead in the bottom of the inning after two El Paso errors on the same play, allowing David Thompson to score, center fielder Franchy Cordero tied the score with a home run.
In the fourth, the Chihuahuas broke through with RBI singles from Javy Guerra and Brett Kennedy, taking a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
“He needs to pound the zone,” 51s manager Tony DeFrancesco said of Flexen. “He got into a lot of deep counts. A couple ground ball hits cost him some runs, the defense behind him didn’t make the play. This guy pitched in the big leagues. I’m expecting the guy to go out there and dominate the league and pitch with some intensity and be one of the top guys.”
After Flexen’s night was over, Brett Nicholas and Guerra greeted reliever David Roseboom with back-to-back homers, and an inning later, an error by infielder Phillip Evans, who was playing left field, allowed two runs to score.
Five 51s pitchers combined to allow seven walks, while El Paso starter Brett Kennedy mostly quieted Las Vegas.
Kennedy gave up two runs — one earned — in six innings and struck out four.
“He mixed really well,” Smith said. “He threw his sliders for strikes, and he threw them well to strike out guys. He stayed off the middle of the plate a lot.”
Smith, who is on a rehab assignment after straining his right quad in spring training, finished 3-for-4, hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning.
Saturday was Smith’s first nine-inning game since last season.
“I feel like it’s getting there,” he said of his timing. “There’s some pitches that I’m chasing that I have no business swinging at.”
DeFrancesco said Smith has a scheduled day off Sunday.
“It was good to see him get some more timing today,” DeFrancesco said. “He hit the ball well a few times, having some better at-bats. It’s going to take a few more at-bats to get some more consistency in his approach.”
Who: El Paso Chihuahuas at 51s
When: 12:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Chris Huffman (0-0, 0.00 ERA), El Paso, vs. P.J. Conlon (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Monday: El Paso at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Las Vegas at Albuquerque, 5:35 p.m.
Wednesday: Las Vegas at Albuquerque, 5:35 p.m.
Thursday: Las Vegas at Albuquerque, 11:05 a.m.
Friday: Las Vegas at El Paso, 6:05 p.m.
P.J. Conlon will make his first Triple-A start Sunday after spending last season at Double-A Binghamton, where he was 8-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 28 games, 22 starts. He struck out 108 in 136 innings.