Reese Kaplan -- Las Vegas 51s Earn a 4 Game Split


All good things must come to an end and thus the four game series between the Las Vegas 51s and the hometown El Paso Chihuahuas took place Monday morning with an 11:05 start.  The 51s took the first game on Friday and the shot out to a 7-0 lead by the 2nd in game two, but the Chihuahuas over the next two days reeled off 21 unanswered runs.  The brought the series to a 2-1 fight for the split and the 51s proved up to the challenge, winning in extra innings by a score of 9-6.

The game started off well with Drew Gagnon pitching effectively, fanning 10 and walking no one.  Unfortunately with a 3-1 lead he gave up three straight extra base hits, including a 2 run shot to former Cardinals slugger Allen Craig to tie the game.  He left after 5.2 IP having given up 3 runs (two earned) and 7 hits.

He was relieved by Corey Taylor who was not at his best.  The stocky righthander got out of the inning but promptly served up a homer in the following frame to allow this back and forth see-saw battle to continue. 

Jacob Rhame was effective in his one inning, throwing some major gas, striking out one and allowing no baserunners. 

Kyle Regnault walked a batter and gave up a hit, but struck out two batters as well.  Manager Tony DeFrancesco opted to switch to Drew Smith to close out the inning but he immediately served up a pair of hits to allow the score to be tied yet again.  He finished with 1.1 IP of work, a blown save and one strikeout en route to a vultured victory. 

Jamie Callahan was asked to save the game in the bottom of the 11th after the 51s took a 9-5 lead.  He did give up a run but the 51s emerged victorious. 

One curiosity in this game was the new rule being tested this year for extra inning games.  At the top of the 10th inning the batter who made the last out in the 9th started the game positioned at 2B in the attempt to keep extra inning games from becoming marathons.  There was even some uncertainty in the press box about how exactly the runs should be recorded.  We eventually determined that the first run that scores is considered unearned since the baserunner started at 2B by virtue of the new rule, but subsequent runs should be considered earned. 

On the offensive side of the ledger, Phil Evans came into the game hitting a mere .192 but went 4/5 with two runs batted in (including the first insurance run in the top of the 11th).  Patrick Biondi, David Thompson, Luis Guillorme and newcomer Johnny Monell also had multi-hit games, Thompson’s an abbreviated one as he left as part of a double switch that brought Evans in to play 3B from LF and Bryce Brentz taking over in the outfield.

The go ahead run in the 11th was an interesting play in which Monell hit a soft grounder up the middle between 2nd and 1st.  The 2nd baseman dove for the ball and tried to nail the runner coming in from third but he was called safe.  The official scorer talked it over with us and we decided it should be ruled a hit since it was unlikely he would have gotten Monell running to 1st from his prone position. 

After the game I retreated to the locker room to wait to conduct an interview, but the clubhouse guy told me that there was a chartered bus waiting outside for the team to catch to get its commercial flight back to Las Vegas.  They had exactly 15 minutes to shower and change clothes before leaving, so I figured it was not in the cards to get to talk to anyone.   However, since I had no plane to catch, I decided to wait there and take my chances.

One thing became immediately clear to me.  Without uniforms on in their street clothes I don’t know all of the 51s players by face.  I recognized a few – Ty Kelly, Dom Smith, Corey Taylor and Bryce Brentz – and a few more came up to me to say hello, including Tim Peterson, Gavin Cecchini and Jacob Rhame. 

My goal today was to get some one-on-one time with new manager Tony DeFrancesco and I assumed he’d be the last one out of the clubhouse.  We did a walk and talk, down the corridor, into the elevator, and subsequently up the block to the waiting bus.  I scribbled notes as best I could based upon our conversation.

DeFrancesco was forthcoming that his goal is very much preparation ahead of winning.  He knows that it’s his role to get the players ready to move up to the big bucks in the majors.  We started to talk about the issues that arose about the poor salaries allocated to minor leaguers, but as we entered the elevator two of his players were there and it seemed an indiscreet topic to continue to pursue.

I asked about the strong start of the Mets and the effect it has on the players.  He said it is actually a strong motivator that helps make players even more anxious than ever to ascend to the Show.  He also said that even the older players have opportunities to advance and his primary job is to keep players motivated because you never know when opportunities arise – such as losing two catchers on the very same day.  He also said it was critical to get players not to be awed or shy when they get to the majors, but to participate, to work hard, to do their drills with enthusiasm because chances can happen at a moment’s notice.

He apparently sets a strong example as all of the players were well dressed as they prepared to travel, not a single one in jeans or sneakers.  The amount of equipment that must travel is somewhat surprising, but each player had his own Mets/51s-emblazoned duffel bag to carry bats and gloves (though I did see a few players actually carrying their gloves in their hands as they made their way up to the bus).  

Finally, I met another photographer today who spent much of the game poring over his many shots to choose the ones to share with the media.  I asked out of curiosity how many photographs per game would he typically take.  The few assembled photographers put their heads together and agreed it was north of 1500 in order to get 1-3 for distribution.  Wow.

Photographer Grant Wickes once again graciously volunteered to share some of his pictures from Sunday’s game with us, today featuring yesterday's starter Mickey Jannis, 1st baseman Dom Smith and shortstop Gavin Cecchini:



Mack Ade said...

Some players are really obsessed about their gloves.

Others their bats.

I remember being told in camp to stay away from one player who wouldn't even let the equipment guy touch his bats.

What was that whacko name? His nickname, given by TC, was 'The Animal'...

Thomas Brennan said...

Great article, and sweet pics.

If Jose Reyes loses his Ambassador status in Queens due to the very large hole in his bat, Phil Evans (as a possible replacement) took a big stride yesterday to show his bat is healthy and in good working order.

My guess is Jose will be given as much rope as possible to turn it around first.

Nice to see David Thompson hitting so well.

Again, great pictures.

Reese Kaplan said...

Chris Carter who came from Boston

Thomas Brennan said...

Off topic, Yoenis Cespedes fanned once every 5.11 at bats in 2016 and 2017. This year, one every 2.46 at bats. Should we be concerned, or is it just a slump?

bill metsiac said...

It's what happens when you take away a man's golf game. 😕

Mike Freire said...

Nice work, Reese.

Mack's Mets © 2012