It hasn’t been a good season for the Las Vegas 51s (56-86). At 30 games under .500, it was one of the worst in franchise history. They went into their final home stand on an eight-game losing streak. But from game to game, good things can happen and they certainly did in this season-ending series against the Tacoma Rainiers. Not only did the 51s sweep four games, they did so by winning twice in walk-off fashion.
At this point in the year, late season call-ups were getting their first taste of AAA, and they contributed. First baseman Jhoan Ureña, who spent the majority of this season in single-A St. Lucie, hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth of game two on Saturday night to lift Vegas to a 7-6 victory. And then Sunday night he hit a walk-off RBI single in the ninth to plate the winning run helping the 51s to a 2-1 win. Ureña hit .227 in 13 games for Las Vegas with 3 home runs, 5 runs scored and 8 RBI.
Aside from the two walk-off wins, all four games were close. In game one on Friday night, Wilfredo Boscan, who finished 4-13 with a 5.44 ERA, didn’t get the victory, but had a solid outing of 6 scoreless innings to finish his season. Second baseman Jeff McNeil, also called up from St. Lucie, and designated hitter Jayce Boyd hit back to back doubles to score a run in the first inning. In the third, McNeil doubled again, moving to third on Boyd’s single. McNeil scored on a double-play hit into by right fielder Travis Snider. Lefty Kyle Renault and Righty Neil Wagner struggled in relief, combining to allow Tacoma to tie the game in the eighth with 2 runs on 3 hits. The 51s came right back as McNeil singled with one out, his third hit of the night. Snider then came up and tripled to untie the game. With a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Neil Wagner gave up a two out walk and a single before Alberto Baldonado came on to strikeout the last batter for the save.
In game two, Tacoma put up a 5 spot against Luis Mateo in the third. But the 51s started chipping away. In the bottom of the third, Ureña led off with a single and then scored all the way from first on a one-out double by McNeil who ended up on third on a throwing error. He came in to score on a ground out by shortstop Phillip Evans making the score 5-2. In the fourth, Snider singled and advanced to third on a single by centerfielder Victor Cruzado. Catcher Xorge Carrillo doubled in Snider, but Cruzado was cut down at home on a close play. In the fifth, McNeil singled. Then back to back doubles by Evans and Boyd gave Vegas the lead at 6-5. Scoreless relief from Beck Wheeler, Kelly Secrest and Ben Rowen held the lead, until the ninth when Kevin McGowan surrendered a one-out game-tying home run. That set up the walk-off heroics by Ureña who led off the bottom of the ninth with a game-winning home run.
In game three, a pitching duel developed as both teams were scoreless through five. Mitch Atkins blinked first allowing a run in the sixth on two singles and a walk. The run scored on a close play at the plate. The 51s offense only scraped out 3 hits over 7 innings off of Rainiers pitching. Tom Gorzelanny and Baldonado each pitched in with a scoreless inning until Carrillo led off the bottom of the eighth with a game-tying home run. In the bottom of the ninth it was more of a team effort all with two outs. Third baseman Josh Rodriguez doubled and Cruzado followed with a walk. After a pitching change, Jeff Glenn came up to pinch hit and worked out another walk to load the bases. Up again came Ureña to single in the winning run to push the 51s past Tacoma 2-1.
In game four, the Sunday afternoon season finale, Jonathan Albaladejo took the mound and went the distance. He pitched a complete game, giving up only one run on six hits; he struck out three and walked none. The outstanding effort was only his second win, bringing his record to 2-4 on the year with a 4.50 ERA. The Vegas offense scored one in the second when Boyd singled and moved over on a groundout. He came home on a single by Glenn. They increased the lead to 3-1 when first baseman Cody Decker homered with Ureña aboard. In the bottom of the eighth, the 51s tacked on one last run. Evans singled and Ureña walked. Evans scored on a single by Boyd to make the score 4-1. Albaladejo pitched a one-two-three ninth, finishing off with a strikeout.
The four-game sweep was their first all season, and only their second series sweep since a three-game sweep of Sacramento in April.
Jhoan Ureña was 5-13 in the series with one home run, 2 RBIs (both game-winning), 3 runs scored and 2 walks. Jeff McNeil was 6-16 with 3 doubles, 5 runs scored and an RBI. Jayce Boyd was 7-15 with 4 RBI, a walk and 2 runs scored. Jonathan Albaladejo pitched a complete game, giving up only one run. Wilfredo Boscan and Mitch Atkins each pitched six innings in their starts giving up zero and one run respectively.
After game one of the series, the 51s announced the following season awards:
Mayor’s Trophy (voted by fans): Amed Rosario
Most Valuable Player (voted by coaches): Dominic Smith
Most Valuable Pitcher (voted by coaches): Ben Rowen
Community Service Award (voted by front office): Jayce Boyd
The 2017 season will most likely be remembered for the emergence, and then promotion to the big leagues by the Mets, of shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith. It was the 35th season for the Las Vegas franchise and the 5th as the Mets AAA affiliate. The Mets will again send a combination of prospects, journeymen and veterans to Las Vegas in 2018. Stay tuned.