With a lineup filled with some of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects, it is no secret that the Las Vegas 51s will go about as far as their pitching will take them this season.
If Thursday night’s season opener with defending Pacific Conference Southern Division champion Sacramento was any indication, that might not be too far.
The River Cats jumped on 51s starter Aaron Laffey for four runs in the top of the first and went on to pound out 18 hits en route to a 11-6 victory before a crowd of 6,197 at windy Cashman Field.
How windy was it? Well, strong enough to blow the American flag off the flagpole above the center field fence.
No kidding. A swirling gust actually snapped the metal chain holding the flag in place during the fifth inning.
Laffey, a 26-year-old lefty who pitched for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees last season, discovered just what kind of wind tunnel can engulf Cashman at times. He gave up three homers – all to left field – among the 11 hits and seven runs he allowed in 4 2/3 innings.
Laffey (0-1), who appeared to have trouble keeping the ball down in the strike zone, was tagged for a homer by the first batter of the game, center fielder Grant Green, who rifled a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left-center.
The River Cats increased the lead to 4-0 by the end of the top of the first and thanks to a solo homer by left fielder Brandon Moss and a two-run shot by catcher Derek Norris led 7-2 when Laffey gave way to Robert Coello.
Las Vegas parlayed five singles and a walk into four runs in the bottom of the fifth to close within 7-6 and had the bases loaded with one out. But Sacramento reliever Neil Wagner (1-0) got out of the jam with a pair of groundouts, including a fielders’ choice at the plate.
The River Cats then pulled away with three runs in the seventh off reliever Scott Richmond highlighted by an RBI double by right fielder Michael Taylor.
Taylor added a sacrifice fly in the ninth, driving in DH Chris Carter who had opened the inning with a double. It was one of three hits for the Sierra Vista High product who also drove in a run.
It was the ninth straight loss for Las Vegas to Sacramento dating back to last season.
Third baseman Yan Gomes had four hits to lead the 51s while reigning PCL batting champ David Cooper was 3-for-5 and had two RBIs.
The two teams resume their four-game series tonight at 7:05 p.m. with a postgame fireworks show following the contest.