Thursday marked the 12th consecutive game a Chihuahuas’ starting pitcher has allowed three runs or less.
The El Paso Chihuahuas’ lineup might not have blown the Las Vegas 51s out of the sky on Thursday, but excellent pitching and defense kept the 51s in their hangar and earned El Paso a 3-2 win in the tense game.
The victory extends the Dogs’ lead to 5 1/2 games over the Salt Lake Bees in the PCL Pacific Southern Division. The Bees lost to the Reno Aces 7-5.
The Dogs came home as the same fiery team that had won seven straight home games last week – even though the road trip was less than stellar with only three wins – and scratched together a win that was complete with dramatic defensive plays and finger-pointing match initiated by the visiting dugout in the sixth inning.
But before that, the Dogs wasted no time getting on the board in the first inning, starting with a triple to right center field by infielder Luis Urias, who went 3-for-4 and narrowly missed hitting for the cycle (just a home run). Catcher Francisco Mejia (.338 BA) followed with an RBI single up the middle, El Paso 1-0.
And there it stayed, 1-0, for six innings, until one wild pitch by El Paso starter Walker Lockett hit 51s’ cleanup man Peter Alonso (.247 BA).
Alonso took a few steps toward the mound on his way to first base but was clearly bothered and stared at Lockett a few seconds as the Las Vegas bench started hollering at the Dogs dugout. Alonso appeared to cool off on the base, but teammate Christian Colon was still chirping.
Colon was thrown out, but not before he decided to let the umpires know exactly what he thought of the decision. A still-rowdy Colon then decided to rush the Dogs’ dugout after getting a few thoughts and comments from the El Paso bench. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied and nearly met at home plate with the crowd jeering.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the worst that happened was an exchange of mad mugs and finger pointing. El Paso pitching coach Bronswell Patrick was also tossed after a meeting between the umpires.
Both teams returned to their posts to the tune of “Why can’t we be friends” by War and resumed the close game. Lockett was eventually able to get out of the inning cleanly with a double play.
A fired-up Chihuahuas lineup came up in their half of the sixth inning and added two more runs on consecutive doubles by Urias and Mejia, and an RBI single by outfielder Shane Peterson.
El Paso was now a comfortable 3-0 over the 51s.
A cinch, right? But Las Vegas had other ideas and a little steam to blow off of their own. Lockett’s only costly mistake came in the seventh inning to third baseman Patrick Kivlehan when he got all of a fastball and quickly buried it 477 feet toward center field, El Paso 3-1.
The 51s were shut down 1-2-3 in the eighth inning, so the Dogs needed only three outs to call it a night. Again, a cinch, right? Nope. Urias made a possibly game-saving play at third base on a brutally hit ground ball along the foul line and threw out shortstop Luis Guillorme by a step.
Pinch hitter Jose Lobaton followed with a fly ball that sailed through the humid air just past the center field wall, El Paso 3-2.
Las Vegas pinch hitter Matt Den Dekker, who had come in for the pitcher in the seventh inning, was up next with two outs. Den Dekker hit a liner to the left field gap that looked like it was going to fall in for a hit when center fielder Dusty Coleman raced in and threw his body toward it at full speed.
Coleman stood victoriously with his glove in the air to show the umpires and the home crowd of 8,577 that it was over, El Paso 3-2.
The winning pitcher was Lockett (5-9) and the losing pitcher was Scott Copeland (2-2). Rowan Wick earned the save for the Dogs.
El Paso 3 Las Vegas 2 – Thursday
WP: Lockett (5-9) | LP: Copeland (2-2) | S: Wick (6) | Time: 2:14 | Attn: 8,577
Box Score | Team Records: Las Vegas (61-62), El Paso (70-52)
Next Game: Friday, 7:05 pm at Southwest University Park. Las Vegas RHP Drew Gagnon (5-4, 4.81) vs. El Paso LHP Logan Allen (1-0, 0.00). The game will air on 600 ESPN El Paso and www.epchihuahuas.com.
Words: Larry Monarrez – El Paso Herald-Post
Pics: ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post