For five innings, Ricky Knapp and Chris Stratton dueled quickly and economically.
Knapp allowed just one hit; Stratton three.
But in the sixth with two outs, Sacramento (25-39) quickly scored four runs to break open a scoreless duel and went on to beat the 51s 5-4 Wednesday night at Cashman Field.
Knapp was one strike away from getting out of the inning. Instead, Ryder Jones took an 0-2 offering to right field for 1-0 Sacramento lead. After a pair of singles, former 51 Justin Ruggiano hit a three-run shot to to give teh River Cats a 4-0 cushion.
“I was able to command the zone pretty well. Even into the sixth inning there when they ended up scoring the four runs, the curveball the guy hit out was a good pitch and the other one was just a bad pitch to Ruggiano,” Knapp said. “But other than that, I thought I was able to attack the zone early. I was in and out enough to make them uncomfortable. That kind of led to some weaker contact and being able to have some quick innings.”
Knapp gave up seven runs in his last outing, which lasted just 2 2/3 innings, and he said he thought he was moving in the right direction.
“It’s tough to feel great about an outing when you give up five runs anytime but I mean I thought that it was a good kind of stepping stone to build off from my last outing,” Knapp said.
Knapp, who has been the 51s’ (26-40) least supported pitcher this year, also didn’t get any run support during his 6 1/3-inning outing Wednesday.
“Overall I thought he did a good job,” Lopez said. “You take that inning away and it’s a good outing (but) once again just unfortunately he couldn’t get any run support.”
Stratton pitched himself out of trouble when he needed to.
“He had a power sinker going, that’s the one thing he did,” manager Pedro Lopez said. “He kept throwing it and we kept grounding that ball on the ground so you’ve got to tip your hat. He did a good job tonight.”
The 51s hit into three double plays off Stratton (four total) — two from Kevin Plawecki and two from Amed Rosario — and often couldn’t capitalize with the leadoff runner aboard.
In the fifth inning, after Desmond Jennings tripled to lead off the frame, Las Vegas saw the next three batters go down on strikeouts.
They did break through offensively in the eighth inning with RBI hits from Phillip Evans and Brandon Nimmo.
But while a bases-loaded double play from Rosario did plate one more run, it killed the rally.
“I thought our best at-bats came later in the game,” Lopez said. “We had an opportunity bases loaded and once again grounded into a double play (but) the one thing I take out of this game is the guys kept grinding their at-bats and they did a good job.”
In the ninth, Plawecki homered — his third in two nights — to cut the Sacramento lead to just one, making the run the River Cats scored in the seventh inning loom large.
“I need to do a better job keeping the game closer,” Knapp said. “They ended up getting that insurance run in the seventh inning when I’m out there to put up a zero … and then we ended up hitting a solo home run that would have tied it had that run not been on the board.”
In the end, that, combined with some missed opportunities came around to bite them.
“We probably came a couple hits away from winning this one,” Lopez said.
Who: Sacramento River Cats at Las Vegas 51s
When: 7:05 p.m. today
Where: Cashman Field
Starters: Joan Gregorio (3-4, 3.26 ERA) vs. Tyler Pill (3-1, 1.96 ERA)
Friday: Sacramento at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
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.
Rafael Montero was recalled by the New York Mets on Wednesday as they put reliever Josh Smoker on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
Contact Betsy Helfand at email@example.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.