After watching Gerson Bautista load the bases in the 10th inning, thanks in part to two walks, pitching coach Glenn Abbott walked out to the mound to deliver a message.
“It’s funny. I actually asked him (what he said),” manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “He said it was top secret.”
But whatever Abbott said, it worked. Bautista retired the next batter on 100-mph heat, striking him out, and got the next one to fly out to left, ending the threat.
And with the game tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the 10th, Ty Kelly delivered. Kelly’s walk-off hit drove in Drew Gagnon and propelled the 51s to a 7-6 victory over New Orleans on Thursday night in the series finale.
“I was going up there ready to bunt to be honest and they were running some bunt defenses and there was a ton of openings in the infield so I figured that I would just try to get on top of one and hit it somewhere and I ended up getting underneath it a little bit but just hit it far enough to get the run in,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s extra-inning heroics came after Las Vegas had tied the game up in the bottom of the ninth, scoring on a wild pitch and Kevin Kaczmarski sacrifice fly.
Before that, Las Vegas (26-35) had been trailing since the fourth when the Baby Cakes (28-32) broke open a 3-3 tie with three runs of their own.
“It can be tough to play close games like this so it’s always nice to come out on top when you do play an extra-inning game just because of the (Pacific Coast League) and because of Vegas, there are so many runs scored that it’s hard to always keep it close or play these kind of games that aren’t 20-10 or whatever,” Kelly said. “So yeah, it’s always nice to win the close ones especially when you come back in the ninth inning and tie it up.”
Starter Cody Martin, who was staked to a 3-1 lead after Patrick Kivlehan hit a three-run blast in the bottom of the first, gave up a run in each of the first three innings as well as the three that put New Orleans ahead in his five-inning outing.
“Cody Martin, he battled for five, gave us everything he had,” DeFrancesco said. “(The) defense behind him was a little erratic.”
And the offense behind him was relatively silent after Kivlehan’s home run, too.
Las Vegas had just three hits from innings two through eight and one was a Kelly pop up that appeared to be lost in the twilight.
“They had three lefties throwing mid-90s with good movement, good offspeed stuff so you don’t often see three guys like that on the same minor league team let alone the same game,” Kelly said. “They just had really good pitching tonight and we battled and got to them at the end. … It can be hard to play the close games but when your pitching staff keeps you in the game, especially when your hitters have to face such good pitching, it’s a huge bonus.”
And the bullpen did just that for the 51s. Kyle Regnault pitched two scoreless innings, as did Drew Smith, before Bautista got out of a tense 10th inning, helping them secure a series win.
“As a group, to shut down that team is pretty impressive. Five scoreless innings,” DeFrancesco said. “Regnault, he’s been battling. He’s working on his breaking ball, fastball command. Did a nice job. I think Smitty’s probably our most-improved pitcher right now coming in and getting some big outs. And Bautista, who just got sent down hasn’t pitched in three or four days, he battled through a big inning for us.”