Chihuahuas lose to 51s on late home run

Jason Green, Sports Editor

The Chihuahuas stranded 15 runners on base on Friday night, only managing to bring two home, while the Las Vegas 51s sent the right pinch hitter to the plate at the right time to secure a 4-2 win in the second game of the season opening five game set.

El Paso manager Rod Barajas took it all in stride following the game.

“We had guys on base in different situations and we just weren’t able to come up with that big hit,” said Barajas at his desk after the tough loss. “It’s encouraging to see guys on base, reaching base, but it’s early for us and guys are still getting settled in and I’m expecting those hits to come around here pretty soon.”

Chihuahuas starting pitcher Matt Magill pitched six innings, giving up six hits and one earned run. Magill allowed a home run to Las Vegas right fielder Travis Taijeron in the fourth inning. The only other blemish on Magill’s record – and the reason that the 6’3” Californian left the game tied 2-2 – was a throwing error by first baseman Jamie Romak that allowed 51s first baseman Dominic Smith to cross the plate.

Barajas was very happy with what he saw from Magill on the night.

“Today kind of cemented all the talk about him (in the Padres camp), the excitement about what we have,” said Barajas with a smile.

All night the Chihuahuas defense backed Magill hardily, even from the opening pitch. Just like opening night, third baseman Cory Spangenberg made a phenomenal play to begin the game as he ranged to his left rapidly, deftly handled a grounder off the bat of 51s lead-off man Gavin Cecchini and threw him out in plenty of time.

Cecchini would once again fall victim to Spangenberg in the top of the seventh inning when a line drive caused the athletic young infielder to rocket from his crouched position to snag the hard hit ball.

When asked if he had singled out Cecchini, Spangenberg could only laugh.

“I’ve never met the guy, never played against him,” said Spangenberg laughing. “I feel bad for him actually.”

Spangenberg was not just valuable in the field, he also tied the game up at 1-1 with an outstanding bunt in the bottom of the fourth to answer Taijeron’s home run. After bunting his way on, he advanced to second on a balk by 51s starting pitcher Ricky Knapp, then scored on a double by shortstop Diego Goris.

Spangenberg attributes his hot start – his .571 average is the highest on the team – to a great spring training that has carried over.

“I think I had a really good spring, I felt comfortable all spring, consistent,” said Spangenberg.

The only other Chihuahuas run of the night would be scored when Romak stroked a single off of Las Vegas reliever Erik Goeddel, advanced to second on a wild pitch, took third on a balk and scored on outfielder Rafael Ortega’s single. This all took place in the bottom of the eighth.

Just as the Chihuahuas and a crowd of 8,131 gained hope, they were let down by reliever Phil Maton who had been absolutely stellar in a brief stint with the Chihuahuas last season. Maton allowed a single to third baseman Phillip Evans and two batters later came the timely move by manager Pedro Lopez.

Pinch hitter Josh Rodriguez had not batted yet this season, but made quick work of a low fastball from Maton. The ball was deposited in the Peter Piper Pizza Porch and the Chihuahuas night was over when the 51s inserted pitcher Chasen Bradford to finish out the game with two strikeouts and a pop fly.

The Chihuahuas and 51s face off Saturday night at 7 p.m. with Tyrell Jenkins (0-0) making his Chihuahuas debut, facing off against veteran pitcher Wilfredo Boscan (0-0) for Las Vegas.