3-run eighth sends 51s past River Cats as season nears end

Just when it looked like all the momentum had shifted to Sacramento on Sunday night, the Las Vegas offense, which hadn’t managed to do much since the third inning, woke up.

The River Cats hit a two-run blast to tie the game up in the eighth inning and second baseman Luis Guillorme was thrown out to begin the eighth trying to stretch a double to a triple.

But the 51s were still able to put up three runs in the inning with Zach Borenstein’s double giving them the go-ahead run. Patrick Kivlehan gave them a pair of insurance runs with his 20th home run of the season in a 5-3 victory over Sacramento on Sunday night at Cashman Field.

“It’s a tie game with two outs so it’s not like you’re down a run where there’s really some pressure,” Borenstein said. “I was kind of up there and I’ve been feeling a lot better the last few days so I just felt confident going into the at-bat just looking obviously to be aggressive, something in the zone.”

Before that, it had been a pitchers’ duel as Drew Gagnon tossed one of his best starts of the year. Gagnon threw 7⅔ innings and left the game with a two-run lead with a runner on base. That run quickly scored off lefty Kyle Regnault, who was brought in to retire lefty Ryder Jones. Instead he served up the two-run shot and the River Cats (55-84) tied it up.

So Gagnon, who pitched well, left with no win to show for it, though he did earn himself something even better — a trip to New York.

“Drew the last two outings, total domination. He controlled all three pitches, aggressive in the zone, it was good to see him get out of a couple jams,” manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “He’s probably the pitching story of the year for us. Guy who started in Double-A came up here struggled early, gave up a ton of home runs early but lately has really turned it around. He’s going to get a chance to pitch in the big leagues in September.”

While Gagnon was dealing, the offense had been mostly silenced since the third inning when the 51s (70-69) scored on a Jack Reinheimer solo shot and a Bryce Brentz RBI double.

“Their starter (Jordan Johnson) just got in a groove. He had three good pitches and his fastball had some life to it. His changeup was working really well,” Borenstein said. “Scratching across two off that guy was big.”

With the three runs in the eighth inning, the 51s not only won the game but ensured that they would finish the season at least .500 after being 14 games under in mid-June.

“That’s something that we’ve kind of had our eye on ever since we turned things around,” Borenstein said. “We thought at one point maybe we could sneak into the playoffs but El Paso kind of shut that down when we went to their place. They played great ball so they earned it but tomorrow is a chance for us to get over the .500 mark … We’re looking to finish strong.”

More 51s: Follow all of our 51s coverage online at reviewjournal.com/51s and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Betsy Helfand at bhelfand@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.

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