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Superstitious 51s cooled off

So there are no more must-wins, but the strategy — or was it more superstition? — worked for a while.

51s manager Lorenzo Bundy would find a reason during his club’s recent hot play to make each game a must-win.

Las Vegas kept responding, so he kept doing it.

But after Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to the Tacoma Rainiers at Cashman Field, Bundy might devise a different tactic.

Even with this defeat, the 51s (41-33) have been rolling, winning 13 of 17 games to go from eight games behind Sacramento (43-30) to 21/2 in the Southern Division.

"By no means have we figured it out, but we’ve taken it to another level," Bundy said.

The 51s have reached that point in several ways, most notably by hitting .300 through Tuesday to lead the Pacific Coast League.

"There’s not a point in the game where we feel like we’re out of the game," said 51s outfielder Xavier Paul, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI on Wednesday. "I think our hitting is just that good. I think we lead the league in hitting for a reason, and we know how to put runs on the scoreboard."

Bundy, in the meantime, began calling games must-wins before Friday’s series opener at Salt Lake, which had defeated the 51s in the first seven meetings. He told his club it needed to beat the Bees to reverse the skid, and it did, 6-4.

Then the 51s had to win the opening game of the doubleheader the following day because, well, it was the opening game of a doubleheader. They took it 3-0 before dropping the second game 6-4, when Bundy didn’t say anything about needing to win.

That changed the following day when the 51s had to win because of Father’s Day (they were 6-3 victors) and Monday because it was the final game of the series (5-4 winners).

In Tuesday’s home series opener against Tacoma, Bundy didn’t say anything until players began asking him in the second inning. He then told them they had to win because it was the series opener, and Las Vegas won, 5-2.

"In most baseball people, there is a little bit of superstition," Bundy said. "We get used to doing things or habits that kind of make you feel good, whether it’s the same bat or eating the same food or taking the same route to the ballpark.

"But they’ve played very good baseball. They haven’t quit. They’ve gone out and grinded it out every day."

Before Wednesday’s loss, Bundy told the players they had to win because Los Angeles Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda would be watching.

"I think it’s just a reminder to go out with the same energy that we took into the ballgame the night before," Paul said. "As long as we do that, we’ll keep ourselves in ballgames, and we’ll win a lot of games."

NOTES — Dodgers infielder Nomar Garciaparra, who was in Las Vegas on a rehabilitation assignment for a strained left calf, flew to Boston to have his doctor evaluate him. Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti was to watch Garciaparra on Wednesday but canceled the trip. … 51s play-by-play announcer Russ Langer is a finalist to be the broadcaster for University of New Mexico football and men’s basketball games. Langer, who would continue 51s duties, is a New Mexico graduate.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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