For the second straight night, a pitcher the 51s jumped all over in April quieted Las Vegas.
On Friday, it was Cody Martin. On Saturday, Las Vegan Donn Roach allowed two runs in five innings as the Tacoma Rainiers beat the 51s 9-2 at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington.
“I hate to keep giving other guys credit, but I guess he pitched better,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said.
When Las Vegas (42-39) last faced Roach, they pounded out eight runs and 10 hits off him in 2 1/3 innings.
“We hit him pretty hard,” Backman said, “and tonight, we didn’t do that at all.”
Saturday’s game got off to a promising start for Las Vegas with a Ty Kelly double and Gavin Cecchini single to give the team runners on the corners with no outs in the first inning.
But the 51s managed just one run in the inning, as Michael Conforto grounded into a double play, and had only three more hits off Roach (5-4), who allowed five hits, one walk and struck out four.
“We chased breaking balls out of the strike zone, but he also was able to throw the breaking ball for strikes early in the count, too, to get ahead of hitters,” Backman said.
After the first, the Rainiers’ offense took over, tying the game in the second, then breaking it open in the third with five runs. Tacoma batted around in the third with six straight hits off Las Vegas starter Duane Below.
Below gave up seven runs — six earned — tying a season high. He was again dealing with a cut on his throwing hand suffered a couple of weeks ago, which had some impact on his performance.
“He hasn’t been able to throw his cut fastball because he tore that skin by his nail there about four starts ago, so he hasn’t been able to throw his cutter,” Backman said. “That’s affected him a little bit because that’s a good pitch for him.”
Backman said he thought Below looked OK except for the third inning.
But that one big inning was enough to sink the 51s on a day when they didn’t see a runner reach base after the fifth.
Unlike the night before when they also gave up nine runs, the number of hard hit balls was way lower Saturday. But like Friday, the 51s didn’t have their best defensive game. On Friday, they committed three errors. On Saturday, shortstop Cecchini committed two on his own, giving him 26 on the season.
“It’s definitely mental, for one. And the mental side takes over on the physical side,” Backman said. “It’s in his head. I think it’s mental right now, and he’s got to overcome it.”
One of those errors led to an unearned run in the sixth inning, but by the time that happened, the outcome had been decided.
“We didn’t do much at the plate, and the defense wasn’t real sharp, either,” Backman said.
Who: Las Vegas 51s at Tacoma Rainiers
When: 7:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cheney Field
Starters: Gabriel Ynoa (9-3, 3.77 ERA), 51s, vs. Joe Wieland (6-4, 6.89 ERA)
Monday: Salt Lake at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Salt Lake at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Salt Lake at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Albuquerque at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Albuquerque at Las Vegas, 5:05 p.m., Albuquerque at Las Vegas Game 2
The New York Mets optioned pitcher Seth Lugo back to Las Vegas on Saturday. Lugo, called up June 30, tossed two scoreless innings in relief Friday against the Chicago Cubs. He allowed two hits and hit a batter but struck out two in a 10-2 win.
Betsy Helfand can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BetsyHelfand.