EL PASO, Texas – What looked like an early pitchers’ duel became a blowout under the new minor league rules which put a runner on second base to start the tenth inning. The Las Vegas 51s hung four runs, three of them earned, on Chihuahuas reliever Colten Brewer for a 9-6 loss.
The Chihuahuas nearly won the game when right fielder Franmil Reyes, with two outs in the ninth inning and a runner on second crushed a ball to left field, as only the 262-pound Reyes can. But it missed going out by a few inches despite nearly everyone in attendance believing it was a walk-off home run.
Reyes was watching too and was held to a single, then compounded the error by being picked off first base to end the inning.
Right-handed pitcher Walker Lockett, who was the MadFriars Pitcher of the Year in 2016, but suffered through a variety of injuries last year, went six strong innings before giving up two earned runs with two outs in the fifth.
“Lockett has been really good,” said El Paso pitching coach Bronswell Patrick before yesterday’s game. “He is starting to use his curveball more early in the count, and his sinker has always been there because it’s either going to sink or it’s going to run.”
“It’s a very tough pitch to barrel up because its always moving. I told him that he just needs to grip it and let it rip and he’s been doing it.
“We’ve been working with him on occasionally elevating his fastball and working a little more on his cutter and slider, but his sinker plays.”
Two bullpen arms shined for the Chihuahuas as well. Right-handed pitcher Eric Yardley returned from a tough outing on Thursday. He relieved Lockett after the first two batters reached in the seventh. The sidearmer induced a double play with runners on the corners and no outs and then finished off the inning with a lazy fly to left field to get the final out of the inning and limit the damage to one run.
T.J. Weir threw two innings. Although he gave up the tying run in the ninth, he was able to come back and blank the 51âs in the tenth. He showed a spectacular pick-off of Las Vegas’s designated runner at second base. The former Ball State shortstop is one of the more athletic pitchers in the organization and an asset in the field.
Chihuahuas Notes: El Paso left at the conclusion of the game for Reno, where they will face former El Paso fan favorite Cody Decker and then head back for another series at Las Vegas. … Luis Urias started the game at shortstop and went 1-for-5, as his batting average dipped to .268. He did look much more comfortable at shortstop than he did last year in San Antonio, but the Padres still see him as someone who can play the position, but not be an everyday regular. … C/1B Brett Nicholas might not be a prospect at 29, but the left-handed hitter has put together impressive at-bats in every game I’ve seen. Today he came off of the bench for a pinch-hit home run. Keep an eye on him.