51s pitcher Kevin McGowan (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Just over a month ago, pitcher Kevin McGowan was transferred to Double-A, a level he hasn’t pitched at since 2016, with the intention of transforming him from a reliever back to a starter.

The righty had been a starter in his early minor league days but had been primarily relieving since 2016.

So he went, making four starts at Double-A before returning to the 51s and tossing seven scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over Sacramento on Saturday night at Raley Field.

“I thought McGowan was outstanding,” said manager Tony DeFrancesco, who watched most of the game from the clubhouse after being ejected in the second inning. “I thought he threw the ball well, changed speeds. Good breaking ball. They really didn’t hit much off of him.”

Like Las Vegas (64-67) a night before, the River Cats (51-80) couldn’t get any type of rally going against McGowan.

They managed just three hits on him on his night. He walked just one batter on the night and struck out five.

“Baseball, sometimes you don’t understand decisions,” DeFrancesco said. “Sometimes the organization’s asking them to do something but he went down there. I guess he had a good attitude and competed well and now he has a chance to finish strong here. He’s going to get another start.”

His catcher, Jose Lobaton, provided a bulk of the offense for him.

Lobaton, who normally hits near the bottom of the lineup, was inserted in the No. 3 spot on Saturday and he delivered, hitting his eighth home run of the season after Matt den Dekker had singled and Ty Kelly had walked to begin the game. Lobaton also drove in a run in the eighth inning, which followed Kelly’s second RBI hit of the game.

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Kelly had two RBI singles — one in the second and one in the eighth. His second hit of the night marked the 1,000 hit in his minor league career.

DeFrancesco had been using Zach Borenstein, Peter Alonso and Bryce Brentz in the 2-3-4 spots but changed it up Saturday, moving both Kelly and Lobaton up and getting rewarded.

“I’ve been getting frustrated. Our big three, even though there’s a chance of a home run or driving the ball, there’s too many inconsistencies, too many strikeouts in those 2-3-4 slots,” DeFrancesco said. “I try to mix it up a little bit. I try to move some guys around. Lobaton’s been having good at-bats. Ty Kelly’s been pretty consistent most of the year, so I just try to mix it up a little bit. I try to lengthen out the lineup to try to minimize the strikeouts.”

Las Vegas struck out 12 times on Friday in a shutout and couldn’t muster anything offensively but bounced back Saturday with 11 hits in the win.

“It was nice after yesterday not doing much offensively,” DeFrancesco said.

Worth noting

Brentz was removed early in the game. DeFrancesco said he felt something on a swing, tweaking an ankle and would be re-evaluated Saturday.

Alonso was held out of the lineup due to sickness. DeFrancesco said he wasn’t sure whether he would play Sunday, which is a day game.

DeFrancesco was ejected in the second inning after Matt den Dekker dribbled a ball near the plate and was tagged out.

It was his first ejection this season.

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Betsy Helfand at Follow on Twitter.

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