It’s been a homestand full of frustration for Las Vegas.
And though the 51s had been playing some better baseball in the second part of the homestand, they suffered perhaps one of their most frustrating losses of the bunch on Thursday.
“There’s been a couple plays that probably should have been made but at the same time, that’s baseball,” Thursday’s starter, Josh Smoker, said. “That’s how it works. Nobody’s going to be perfect every time you go out there. It’s just kind of bad timing on our part.”
After the 51s (16-25) had scored four runs to take a 5-2 lead in the seventh, manager Pedro Lopez called on reliever Alberto Baldonado, who was ineffective.
Baldonado walked the first batter he faced and then gave up three straight singles. By the time the inning was over, Baldonado had worked 1/3 of an inning and gave up four runs, three earned.
“(He was) inconsistent with command,” manager Pedro Lopez said. “Leadoff walk after scoring four runs in that seventh inning — leadoff walk kind of puts everything out there for the other team and it did.”
The Cubs (18-21) cut the lead to 5-4 and had runners on the corners when Lopez turned to closer Chasen Bradford to get the final two outs of the inning.
It looked like Bradford would get out of trouble when Taylor Davis’ tailor-made double play grounder was hit right to second baseman Gavin Cecchini.
But the ball went through Cecchini’s legs, allowing the tying run to score. With runners now on first and third, the next batter, Stephen Bruno, hit a sacrifice fly to left, giving the Cubs a 6-5 lead.
Baldonado was tagged with the loss.
“Tailor made, but I guess it’s just another signature of how this season is going,” Lopez said. “We’re not playing well.”
The Cubs, as they had done in the previous three games, jumped out to an early lead, scoring twice in the first inning off Josh Smoker, a reliever sent to Las Vegas to work on his offspeed pitches. One of the runs was unearned. In four innings, Smoker gave up only two hits and struck out five, his second solid performance as a starter in Las Vegas.
“It’s coming along the way I want it. The change-up was really good tonight and the slider got a little loopy, a little bit more than I would like, but it was still successful,” Smoker said. “I think once I start sharpening that pitch up a little bit, I think I’ll be right back to where I want.”
The 51s scored one run in the bottom of the inning on Amed Rosario’s fourth home run of the season, which came moments after Cecchini was caught stealing.
They didn’t score again until the seventh when a Rosario triple drove in Brandon Nimmo. Dominic Smith and Carrillo each also had RBI hits in the inning to put the 51s ahead by three, a lead that was short lived.
“(We) could not be playing any worse,” Lopez said.
Who: 51s at New Orleans Baby Cakes
When: 5 p.m. Friday
Where: Shrine on Airline, Metairie, Louisiana
Starters: Ricky Knapp (1-4, 5.98 ERA), 51s, vs. Vance Worley (2-5, 4.43 ERA)
Saturday: Las Vegas at New Orleans, 4 p.m.
Sunday: Las Vegas at New Orleans, 11 a.m.
Monday: Las Vegas at New Orleans, 5 p.m.
Tuesday: Las Vegas at Round Rock, 5:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Las Vegas at Round Rock, 5:05 p.m.
The 51s will embark on an eight-game trip Friday to New Orleans and Round Rock, Texas. They are 6-11 on the road.
For more coverage of the 51s, go to ReviewJournal.com/51s
Contact Betsy Helfand at email@example.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.