The Reno Aces dealt the 51s perhaps their most crushing loss of the season Wednesday, burying them with a two-out, walk-off grand slam.
But any worry about that spilling into Thursday was dashed when Las Vegas mounted a ninth-inning comeback of its own en route to a 9-8, 10-inning victory at Greater Nevada Field in Reno.
Roger Bernadina hit his second home run of the season to lead off the 10th inning and salvage the win for the 51s shortly after they saw their one-run lead disappear in the bottom of the ninth.
Reliever Josh Smoker, who has been shaky recently, blew that lead by giving up a solo home run to Mike Freeman. But the second time around, he hung onto the lead, throwing a scoreless 10th.
“It was a similar game to last night, just reversed,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said. “The offense kept plugging away and never quit, and that’s what I’ve watched our offense do most of the year.”
The 51s (28-25) trailed 7-3 after eight innings, but after a Gavin Cecchini groundout scored a run, Dilson Herrera and Brandon Nimmo each had back-to-back two-RBI hits with two outs.
Las Vegas found itself down after an uncharacteristic start from ace Gabriel Ynoa, who gave up a season-high five runs in six innings. It was just the third time in 11 outings he didn’t have a quality start.
“Ynoa wasn’t at his best tonight,” Backman said. “He made a few mistakes. He left the ball up in the zone a little bit.”
After Ynoa departed, recent bullpen struggles persisted.
Each reliever — Chasen Bradford, Zack Thornton and Smoker (2-1) — gave up a run and at least two hits, and Backman said he was still “a little frustrated,” with the bullpen.
“The results aren’t good enough. Going into this year, our bullpen was supposed to be really good,” Backman said. “I think at certain times, we just, we haven’t pitched to our strengths enough.”
Backman held a meeting before Wednesday’s game — a day after the bullpen coughed up a lead in the first game of the series — to address bullpen issues, and while he hasn’t seen great results, he said he hopes it’s a “learning curve” for his relievers.
“Hopefully we get better. I really believe they’re better than what they’ve shown,” Backman said. “All of them have shown they can be pretty good at times.”
But Thursday, the offense hit well enough to cover up the bullpen’s struggles, scoring three runs in seven innings off Braden Shipley, one of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top prospects, before regaining the lead twice in the final two innings.
“To see the offense fight back the way they did, I think that shows character,” Backman said. “They could have laid down tonight. Shipley pitched a pretty good game against us, and they could have laid down. We fell behind, but they didn’t quit.”
Matt Reynolds, who was recently sent back to Triple-A Las Vegas, was not in the lineup Thursday and likely is headed back to the New York Mets with third baseman David Wright going on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck.
Reynolds began the season in Las Vegas before a May call-up. He was optioned to Triple A on Sunday and played in the first two games of the Reno series.
Who: Las Vegas 51s at Reno Aces
When: 7:05 p.m. Friday
Where: Greater Nevada Field
Starters: Sean Gilmartin (5-2, 3.92 ERA), 51s, vs. Edgar Garcia (1-2, 8.55 ERA)
Saturday: Tacoma at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Tacoma at Las Vegas, 12:05 p.m.
Monday: Tacoma at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Tacoma at Las Vegas, 12:05 p.m.
Eric Campbell was added to the 51s’ roster Thursday and started in left field. Campbell was sent down after the Mets signed James Loney. To make room for Campbell, Niuman Romero was reassigned to Double-A Binghamton. Romero was hitting .268 in 12 games with the 51s.
Betsy Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BetsyHelfand