Chihuahuas open season with a win

Luis Gonzalez, Sports Editor

Starting pitcher Jason Lane struggled on the mound at moments, but thanks to the offense’s bats, the left hander and the El Paso Chihuahuas won their first game of the season over the visiting Tacoma Rainiers. Led by outfielder Abraham Almonte, the Chihuahua offense recorded 18 hits, including a couple of home runs, on their way to an 11-4 win on opening night .

“We’re pleased with the way the guys competed,” said Chihuahuas manager Pat Murphy. “That was the number one thing I saw.”

Lane, who came in to the game 5-5 in his last 10 starts with the Chihuahuas, allowed the Rainiers to make plenty of contact on the night, starting with the first pitch.

The first ball Lane fired towards the plate was met by Tacoma short stop Katel Marte’s bat allowing him to reach first base without problem. As he got a jump looking to steal second, centerfielder James Jones lined out to third leaving Marte in no man’s land and the Chihuahuas converted the double play.

It seemed like that was the way Lane’s night went, all five innings he was on the mound. Batters would make contact, get on base, but there was nothing to show for it at the end of the inning. He allowed ten hits, including a home run, while striking out just two.

It was one inning, the third, in which the Rainiers took advantage and put some runs on the board. With the Chihuahuas leading 2-0, Lane allowed all of the four earned runs he gave up during that inning giving Tacoma the lead momentary lead.

“Lane had some tough luck,” Murphy said. “We didn’t turn a couple of double plays we should’ve, we didn’t get to some balls we probably could’ve.”

There were plenty of highlights offensively for El Paso, starting with its leadoff hitter, Almonte, who was making his debut with the Chihuahuas. It was not the best night of the Dominican’s career, but it was a great one nonetheless. He went a perfect 5-5, with a double, an RBI and four runs.

“I swung to good pitches, that’s one of the most important things,” Almonte said. “That’s what happens when you get yourself in a good position and swing at good pitches.”

While Almonte was impressive, he was not the only one who stood out on this opening night.

Chihuahuas third baseman Brett Wallace went 3-5, with a double and a home run, on his way to bringing four runs in to the plate. His performance on the night was nothing new for Murphy, who coached Wallace for three years during college.

“That’s all Ive ever seen out of Wally (Wallace) right there,” Murphy said. “I’d like to say I’m surprised, but that’s all I’ve ever seen out of him…he’s special.”

Crowd favorite Cody Decker went 2-4 on the night from the designated hitter spot, adding a home run of his own.

The crowd, a record breaking 10,047, had plenty to cheer about and was involved in the game from the beginning. After starting the season on the road a year ago, the opportunity to begin in front of a home crowd was welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed.

“It plays a big role, it’s great help to our game,” Almonte said. “When you have a fan base like that, that supports you no matter what, you have the urge to go out there and fight for them.”

It was a successful opening night for a Triple-A team that has the potential to have a great season, but could be totally different in a month or two. That aspect of the game is not lost on players and coaches, but for the moment they are enjoying the first win of the season and the atmosphere in which they got it in.

“A lot of things are possible. Bottom line is, we’re gonna have a million changes starting tonight,” Murphy said. “We’re just enjoying every day, keep the kids in the right frame of mind and make sure they play the game the right way.”

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected]