After being swept in four straight by Nashville, the beginning of a new series gave Las Vegas (25-22) a figurative chance to start fresh. Duane Below took this chance in his left hand as he took the mound against the Memphis Redbirds Friday night at Cashman Field.
Below set the the tone for his team as he fired seven strong innings giving up only 1 unearned run. The run came in the fourth, after Below had walked Tommy Pham and made an errant pick-off throw allowing Pham to go to third. A one out sac fly to center by David Washington brought the run home. Below gave up a total of only four hits, walking two and striking out five through seven.
The Vegas offense struggled early against the Memphis starter, the hard-throwing Alex Reyes. Reyes reached 100 or 101 mph on the radar gun throughout his five innings of work. It took until the fifth for the 51s to break through. Niuman Romero led off with a single and Kyle Johnson followed with a walk. Reyes struck out Below and Dilson Herrera. But Gavin Cecchini came through with a clutch two-out single up the middle to plate Romero with the tying run.
The game stayed tied until the bottom of the seventh. Former 51 Miguel Socolovich came on to start the inning for Memphis. Nevin Ashley led off, pinch hitting for Below, and singled to left. Herrera popped up a bunt attempt. Then Cecchini collected his second single of the game moving Ashley to second. A T.J. Rivera single loaded the bases. Then Johnny Monell hit a fly ball which would have gone for a sacrifice fly, but was dropped by center fielder Pham. Both Ashley and Cecchini scored to give the 51s a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Vegas got an insurance run against another former 51, John Church. Ashley collected his second single of the night with two outs, a grounder to short which was then thrown away by the shortstop allowing him to move to second. Ashley scored on a single by Herrera extending the lead to 4-1.
Duane Below‘s seven innings of one run ball went a long way to spare a tired Vegas bullpen. He earned the win improving his record to 4-3 and decreasing his ERA to 3.70. Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini each had two hits driving in a run apiece. Nevin Ashley also had two hits and two runs scored after entering the game as a pinch hitter in the 7th. Rivera played left field for the second straight night and went 1 for 4 which extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
Las Vegas will continue the four-game series against Memphis on Saturday night at 10:05 ET with Gabriel Ynoa on the bump.
(Photos by Jennifer Nieves)