While playing at Cal State Fullerton, Tyler Pill would pitch on Saturdays and play right field or serve as the team’s designated hitter the other two weekend days.
Pill’s hitting skills haven’t left him since college even though his primary focus has shifted to pitching.
Those skills were on display Thursday as Pill went 2-for-3 in the 51s’ 12-4 win over Sacramento (25-40) at Cashman Field. Pill earned the win, going seven innings and giving up just two runs on six hits while striking out three.
“It was the second inning, I believe, I left a couple pitches over the plate and then made the adjustment from there on out,” said Pill, who recently was optioned to the 51s (27-40) after his first stint in the majors, “Me and (catcher Xorge Carrillo) made some good adjustments during the game and made the pitches when we needed to.”
Pill said he was trying to make sure he missed off the plate instead of over it in certain situations.
After giving up a run in the second that tied the game, Pill threw three perfect innings from the third to the fifth.
Las Vegas manager Pedro Lopez said Pill was inconsistent with his command in the first couple of innings but was better after that.
“I think he just made better pitches. Early on, he was up in the zone,” Lopez said. “First two innings up in the zone, working behind and then from the second inning on, it seemed like he found his groove and did a really good job.”
Pill said his curveball in particular was working well for him Thursday.
So was his bat.
Pill drove in two runs and scored twice, boosting his batting average up to .385.
“I take a lot of pride in it. You can probably ask the hitters, they probably laugh at me and get mad at me if I come back and I’m like ‘Oh, I just missed it,’” Pill said. “I’m just trying to get some runs in and help the team win.”
Pill got plenty as the 51s scored one run in the first, three in the second, three in the sixth and five in the seventh.
Phillip Evans and Victor Cruzado led the team with three hits apiece while Desmond Jennings led the team with three runs batted in.
Jennings, Carrillo, Pill and Amed Rosario each had two hits.
“I think in order for us to compete better, the bottom of the lineup needs to do a better job and I thought that’s what we did tonight,” Lopez said. “Evans did a really nice job. He turned the lineup around and gave us a chance.”
Evans, hitting eighth, scored three runs and drove in one in addition to his three hits.
Combined with Carrillo, Pill and pinch-hitter Jeff Glenn, the seven through nine hitters in the lineup went 7-for-13, giving Pill more than enough run support.
So, after a night like Thursday’s, what does Pill like most? A good night at the plate or a good outing on the mound?
“I’ll take both,” he said. “Both ways.”
So will the 51s.
Who: Sacramento River Cats at Las Vegas 51s
When: 7:05 p.m. today
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Roberto Gomez (1-3, 5.12 ERA) vs. Donovan Hand (1-2, 7.16 ERA)
Saturday: Las Vegas at Reno, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Las Vegas at Reno, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: Las Vegas at Reno, 7:05 p.m
Tuesday: Las Vegas at Reno, 1:05 p.m.
Gavin Cecchini was called up as the New York Mets put second baseman Neil Walker on the disabled list with a partial tear in his left hamstring. Catcher Jeff Glenn was activated from the disabled list.
Hitting coach Jack Voigt was named to the Pacific Coast League’s coaching staff for the upcoming All-Star Game.
— Betsy Helfand
Contact Betsy Helfand at email@example.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.