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Aviators blast El Paso 12-2, notch sixth straight home win 

Catcher Austin Allen goes 3-for-5 with a homer and four pitchers shut down the Chihuahuas as Las Vegas improves to 9-3 in its last 12 games
Right-hander Miguel Romero delivered his best start of the season for the Aviators on Saturday, holding El Paso to just one run on six hits and one walk in a season-high five innings. (Steve Spatafore | Las Vegas Aviators)
July 18, 2021

It’s a cliché that’s been around for decades, and it applies to all sports, at every level: If you want to be successful, you absolutely must beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. So when the Aviators returned home this week after splitting a six-game road trip against the first-place

It’s a cliché that’s been around for decades, and it applies to all sports, at every level: If you want to be successful, you absolutely must beat the teams you’re supposed to beat.

So when the Aviators returned home this week after splitting a six-game road trip against the first-place Reno Aces, they knew if they wanted a shot at claiming their second straight division title, they had to take care of business against an El Paso Chihuahuas squad that arrived in Las Vegas eight games under .500.

So far, so good.

After starting the series by registering a pair of four-run victories that were far more competitive than the final scores indicated, the Aviators left absolutely no doubt on Saturday, cruising to a 12-2 win over El Paso before a crowd of 7,463 at Las Vegas Ballpark.

Catcher Austin Allen paced Las Vegas’ 13-hit attack by going 3-for 5 with three RBI, including a two-run homer in a sixth inning that pushed his team’s lead from 4-2 to 6-2. Two innings later, the Aviators (32-31) put the game away when they sent 12 men to the plate and scored six runs to turn that 6-2 advantage into a 12-2 lead.

It marked the second consecutive game in which the Aviators busted open a tight game with a big eighth inning, as they broke a 5-5 tie Friday night with a four-run eighth that led to a 9-5 victory.

When all was said and done Saturday, eight of the nine Aviators in the lineup tallied at least one hit. The only exception? First baseman Carlos Pérez, who finished 0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored one day after belting a pair of home runs to lead Las Vegas past the Chihuahuas.

As impressive as the Aviators once again were offensively, the pitching staff really stole the show. Miguel Romero, who began the season in the bullpen, made his sixth consecutive start and yielded just one run on six hits and one walk in a season-high five innings.

After Romero departed, three Las Vegas relievers — lefty A.J. Puk, righty Matt Blackham and southpaw Adam Kolarek — took over and yielded just four hits in four innings with a combined no walks and six strikeouts. When Kolarek recorded the final out in the ninth inning, Romero (1-3) had his first victory of the season — and his team’s ninth in the last 12 games overall and sixth straight at home.

GAME NOTES: In addition to Allen, second baseman Nate Mondou (2-for-5, run, two RBI), shortstop Pete Kozma (2-for-4, run, two RBI) and third baseman Vimael Machín (2-for-3, two runs, walk) finished with multiple hits for the Aviators. Every player in the lineup scored at least one run. … Allen has now hit safely in 19 of his last 21 contests, including a team-best 15-game hitting streak from June 17-July 9. During the 21-game stretch, the veteran catcher is batting .326 (29-for-89) with six homers, five doubles, 13 runs and 17 RBI, and he’s raised his season average from .253 to .292. … With Allen’s sixth-inning homer, Las Vegas has now gone deep in 12 of its last 13 games, including the last eight in a row. Throw in a franchise-record 21-game home run streak from June 4-27, and the Aviators have belted at least one homer in 33 of their last 38 contests. … Since July 3, Mondou has hit safely in 11 of 13 games, recording multiple hits in nine of those contests. For the month, Mondou is batting .373 (22-for-59) with seven doubles, nine runs and 12 RBI. … Peña (1-for-2, three walks, two runs, RBI) has a six-game hitting streak that dates to July 9. During the streak, Peña is batting .448 (13-for-29) with two homers, nine RBI and 11 runs scored. In the process, he’s raised his season batting average from .210 to .251. … Through the first three games of this series, Las Vegas starting pitchers Daulton Jefferies Homer Bailey and Romero have allowed a total of 13 hits and three walks in 16 innings. … While five Chihuahuas pitchers allowed seven walks and struck out just one batter, the Aviators’ four pitchers walked just one and struck out eight.

LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: Heading into Saturday’s action, several current Aviators ranked in the Top 10 in several Triple-A West hitting and pitching categories:

• Outfielder Cody Thomas entered Saturday ranked first in the league in slugging percentage (.703) and extra-base hits (39); tied first in home runs (18); second in RBI (50); second in OPS (1.071); tied for second in total bases (137); and tied for fifth in doubles (18)

• Outfielder Greg Deichmann leads the league in walks (45) and is tied for second in on-base percentage (.448)

• Machín is tied for the league lead in triples (4)

• Shortstop Pete Kozma is tied for 10th in hits (60)

• Right-hander Paul Blackburn ranks second in innings pitched (62 1/3); tied for sixth in strikeouts (53) and seventh in ERA (4.76)

• Right-handed reliever Domingo Acevedo is tied for eighth in saves (5)

• Right-handed starter Brian Howard ranks 10th in ERA (5.74) and ninth in WHIP (1.53)

ON DECK: The Aviators and Chihuahuas return to Las Vegas Ballpark at 7:05 p.m. Sunday for the fourth game of their six-game series. Blackburn (3-4, 4.76 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Las Vegas, while El Paso counters with fellow right-hander Jesse Scholtens (3-6, 5.77).

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