Friday night, the 51s watched as the Tacoma Rainiers put up two early runs and then continued to pile on runs en route to a 9-0 win.
Saturday, the Rainiers again put up two early runs thanks to a D.J. Peterson two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning.
This time, though, the 51s fought back.
Josh Rodriguez hit a solo home run in the second inning to cut Tacoma’s early lead in half and another home run in the sixth to cap a four-run rally as the 51s beat Tacoma 5-4 on Saturday night at Cheney Stadium.
Rodriguez finished the night 3-for-4 and the two home runs brought him up to eight on the season.
“I think he just got good pitches to hit and he was able to do some damage,” manager Pedro Lopez said.
While he provided a bulk of the Las Vegas (25-38) runs, back-to-back RBI doubles from Kevin Plawecki and Travis Taijeron in the sixth inning tied the game up at 3-3.
After Tacoma (34-27) starter Dillon Overton gave up a single to Amed Rosario to lead off the sixth, the 51s greeted reliever Mark Lowe by ambushing him with the two doubles and home run to take the lead.
They finished the night 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position thanks in part to that sixth inning, a promising sign for a team that has struggled in those situations.
“I think that the guys did a good job. They stayed within themselves,” Lopez said. “They didn’t try to do too much when we had guys in scoring position and they stayed up the middle of the field. That’s something that we didn’t do last night and tonight we did a better job at it.”
Starter Sean Gilmartin took the win in the game, battling through five innings. He gave up eight hits and walked three but only surrendered three runs in the outing.
“He made some mistakes. I thought that he did a good job battling after his pitch count got up,” Lopez said. “His pitch count got up and he unfortunately came out of the game early but overall I thought he did a good job. Gave us five innings and gave us a chance to win a ballgame.”
After the 51s scored four runs in the sixth, Ben Rowen gave one back, but Erik Goeddel (1 2/3) and Chasen Bradford (1 1/3) each contributed scoreless outings with Bradford picking up the save, his ninth of the season. Lopez said the bullpen was “outstanding,” in the victory.
The win gives the 51s a chance to win the series on Sunday against Tacoma, though they’ll face a tall task going up against six-time All-Star Felix Hernandez who will start the game for the Rainiers on rehab. Sunday’s game will cap an 11-game road trip, the longest of the season for the 51s.
Who: 51s at Tacoma Rainiers
When: 1:35 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cheney Stadium
Starters: Rafael Montero (0-1, 1.57 ERA), 51s, vs. Felix Hernandez (0-0, 22.50)
Tuesday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Six-time All-Star Felix Hernandez will make his second rehab start Sunday after dealing with shoulder bursitis. He is expected to throw about 65 pitches.
Contact Betsy Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.