Zack Wheeler Finding His Groove; Wins Second Straight – Las Vegas 51’s Down The Sacramento River Cats, 6-2

By Michael Lecolant

Zack Wheeler celebrated Cinco de Mayo by posting his second consecutive impressive start Sunday afternoon, as the Las Vegas 51’s were in Sacramento visiting the River Cats.  Entering Sunday’s game, Vegas was still trying to gain their first victory after dropping the first two contests of a four game set.

July 9, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 51’s provided their pitcher with a 2-0 cushion in the second inning on Omar Quintanilla‘s double which cleared Wilmer Flores and Jamie Hoffmann from the bases.  Las Vegas scored a third run in the top of the sixth when Collin Cowgill tagged up from third on a Zach Lutz sac-fly to center.

Through six innings, Wheeler limited Sacramento to just three scattered singles, and no runs.  He issued one walk (in the first inning), and struck out four.  No base runner ever reached second base against him.  He was up to ninety pitches; fifty-five for strikes.  Wheeler was still smokin’ sliders at eighty-nine to ninety miles per hour in his last inning.  In the top of the seventh inning, Collin Cowgill launched a three run home run to give Wheeler and the 51’s a 6-0 lead.  It was then that Wally Backman decided not to send Zack Wheeler out for another inning of work.  He threw 108 pitches in his previous appearance.

Over his last two starts, Wheeler has tossed 12.2 innings, allowed eight hits, issued only two walks, and struck out twelve.  His ERA has dropped from 5.79 three starts ago, to a 4.00 mark after today.  He now has a 2-1 record after seven starts.

In relief of Wheeler, Justin Hampson failed to protect the shutout, allowing a two out, two run home run off the foul pole to Josh Horton in the bottom of the seventh inning.  Greg Peavey was summoned to pitch the eighth, and contributed a scoreless inning.  Gonzalez Germen retired the River Cats in order in the ninth.  The final score was Las Vegas 6, Sacramento 2.

The 51’s will try and gain a series split against Sacramento in the last game of this eight game road trip.  With today’s win, Las Vegas is now 4-3, with a chance to even up tomorrow, and get back to .500 before playing at home again.  Vegas is now 14-15 this season, currently in third place, two games behind the Pacific Division leading Sacramento River Cats.

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