Thursday, April 23, 2009 | 11:30 p.m.
If one thing is certain so far about the Las Vegas 51s this season, it's that the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays will sure try to make things interesting.
Unfortunately for 51s fans, a surplus of exciting opportunities does not necessarily translate into victories.
Once again on Thursday night the 51s dropped a game they were in position to tie in their final at-bat, but once again they instead suffered a setback — this time a 6-3 loss to Fresno at Cashman Field.
For the remaining fans that stuck around until the very end of the season’s first Dollar Beer Night promotion, they at least got to see Randy Ruiz at the plate with the opportunity to tie the game with one swing.
Instead the 51s’ hottest hitter grounded out to finish off the anticlimactic ending in front of the season's third-largest crowd of 4,450.
“It’s actually encouraging that we’re in games until the very end,” said 51s manager Mike Basso, whose squad fell to 4-10 after losing its eighth contest by three runs or less.
“The crowd was great, very enthusiastic. Unfortunately we couldn't give them a celebration there at the end. We just haven’t broke through yet, but at least we’re giving ourselves a shot.”
Las Vegas’ top pitching prospect Brett Cecil dropped his second decision of the year. The left-hander gave up five runs in four and two-thirds innings.
The 2007 first-round pick gave up seven hits and his inflated ERA now sits at 10.32.
But Basso said he wasn't too concerned about the standout from Maryland's early season struggles.
"I don't think he's pressing, he's just making some bad pitches," Basso said. "He elevated a couple of balls tonight and they got hit hard."
The 51s' bats didn't wake up until late, and a couple of miscues didn't help matters.
A low throw by Las Vegas second baseman Howie Clark could have helped Cecil get out of the third, instead the mishap helped lead to two Grizzlies runs.
While only two 51s players had more than one hit on the night (third baseman Scott Campbell and outfield Aaron Mathews each went 2-for-3), things looked to be turning around for Las Vegas in the bottom of the seventh.
J. P. Arencibia scored and the 51s had runners on first and second. But Campbell committed a bad baserunning mistake, and got doubled-off on Howie Clark's line drive to center.
The 51s had another golden opportunity in the bottom of the eighth. Three straight singles led to another run and set up first and third with one out.
But Arencibia struck out swinging and Mathews flew out to left to end the threat.
Ruiz, who leads the team with five homers and 17 RBIs, was the 51s last chance. However, with Campbell on third and Buck Coats on first, Ruiz grounded out to the shortstop to end the game.
"We're right on the edge of breaking out, I think it's just a matter of getting one or two of these close ones to go our way," said Basso, whose club will finish the series with Fresno tonight before heading to Sacramento on Saturday.
"We just got to stay positive."