It was hardly a fit night out for desert creatures, desert dwellers — and pitchers.
More than a few El Paso baseball fans waited through a one hour and seven minute rain delay on a cool, wet Friday night at Southwestern University Park. But their patience went unrewarded as Las Vegas held off all late Chihuahua charges to take an 8-7 win in front of an official attendance of 8,188 fans.
It was hardly a fit night out for pitchers, either. The Chihuahua moundsmen gave up 16 hits while the Las Vegas pitchers gave up 13 base knocks. The two teams combined for 29 hits and 15 runs.
In short, it was not a night for pitchers.
It was also a disappointing night for the Chihuahuas. The El Paso club is in the hunt for a third straight Pacific Coast League Pacific Southern Division title. But the Chihuahuas failed to gain ground Friday against a club they should gain ground against.
Sacramento dropped Salt Lake 5-3 Friday and Albuquerque was rained out. The standings are still almost a dead heat. Salt Lake is 59-60. Albuquerque is in a virtual tie with a 58-59 mark. El Paso is still just two games out with a 57-62 record.
Las Vegas has struggled this season and the 51s are now 45-74. But the Chihuahuas could not get enough runs to get past them on this cool, damp evening.
Las Vegas struck early and never trailed. The 51s got a pair in the top of the first but El Paso’s Franchy Cordero countered with a solo home run. But Las Vegas stuck three more on the board in the top of the second and led 5-1.
Then, with two out in the bottom of the second, a huge bolt of lightning struck near the stadium. That was followed by a booming clap of thunder and that was followed quickly by a stiff rain.
The tarp was pulled and quite a few fans waited through the one hour and seven minute rain delay. They pulled the tarp and got back to raining base hits just after 9 p.m.
It remained 5-1 until Rocky Gale got an RBI single in the fourth, trimming the lead to 5-2.
Diego Goris got an RBI double in the fifth and Rafael Ortega followed with an RBI ground out and Nick Buss added an RBI single and, presto, this dance was tied at 5-all.
For a few minutes.
Cody Decker, the El Paso favorite who hit 48 home runs in the first two season’s of this franchise’s existence, stepped to the plate to lead off the sixth for Las Vegas. Bam. Decker did what Decker does. He hit his 185th minor league home run, this one a line shot over the right center field fence.
Las Vegas would not trail again.
The 51s pounded across two more runs in that sixth frame, leaving the home team to climb out of yet one more hole.
Cordero got a triple in the bottom of the sixth and trotted home on a Diego Goris single. The 51s lead was then 8-6 … 8-6 with a possible exciting finish for the home team.
Chase D’Arnaud pulled the Chihuahuas one heartbeat closer to an exciting finish with a solo home run over the left field wall in the eighth. All of a sudden, it was 8-7 with all sorts of possibilities looming in that exciting bottom of the ninth.
But, on this night that was hardly fit for pitchers, Las Vegas reliever Kevin McGowan thought otherwise. He retired the Chihuahuas one-two-three in the ninth, striking out two of them and draining every bit of drama smack out of this one.
Decker had a solid night on his return to El Paso, walking twice and launching that go-ahead home run.
In the end, it was a beautifully cool, uncomfortably wet night … a night that was hardly fit for pitchers and a night with a huge dose of what-if for the Chihuahuas as they continue to chase a championship.
Bill Knight may be reached at 546-6171; email@example.com; @BillKnightept on Twitter.