More than 24,000 fans have packed Las Vegas Ballpark for the first three games of the Aviators’ final homestand of 2021. And while those fans didn’t get to see the home team defeat the visiting Oklahoma City Dodgers in those three games, they did get to see stellar individual efforts
More than 24,000 fans have packed Las Vegas Ballpark for the first three games of the Aviators’ final homestand of 2021. And while those fans didn’t get to see the home team defeat the visiting Oklahoma City Dodgers in those three games, they did get to see stellar individual efforts by multiple Aviators players.
Here’s why that’s noteworthy: Barring any offseason trades, those same players likely will return to Las Vegas in April and comprise the core of the Aviators’ 2022 opening-day roster. If that indeed ends up being the case, Aviators fans who didn’t get to see a victory the last three nights very well could see a whole bunch next summer.
On Saturday, it was Las Vegas outfielder Luis Barrera and a trio of players who began this season in Double-A —shortstop Nick Allen, outfielder Mickey McDonald and relief pitcher Kyle Friedrichs — who gave a sellout crowd of 9,061 both its money’s worth and a glimpse of what’s to come, despite a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers.
The highlights from the Aviators’ quartet of prospects:
• Barrera delivered his second straight 3-for-4 performance — collecting singles in the first, sixth and ninth innings — and he’s now 8-for-12 in the series against Oklahoma City. The 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic also is riding a streak of five straight multi-hit games during which he’s batting .600 (12-for-20). Not only that, but in his last 16 games dating to September 7, Barrera is 25-for-61 (.410) with an inside-the-park home run, six doubles, seven runs and eight RBI.
Barrera — who opened the season in Las Vegas and has remained with the Aviators all summer except for a brief big-league promotion to the Oakland A’s — has raised his Triple-A batting average from .252 to .277 during his extended hot streak.
• Allen, who has been on a tear at the plate for nearly two weeks, did a little bit of everything Saturday. For starters, the 22-year-old who earned a silver medal this summer as part of the U.S. Olympic baseball team, went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Allen also scored the Aviators’ first run after leading off the fourth inning with a walk, drove in his team’s second run with a two-out single in the fifth, made a sensational over-the-shoulder catch on a popup to shallow left field in the sixth and followed McDonald’s leadoff bunt single in the eighth with one of his own.
During his 10-game hitting streak, Allen is 16-for-40 (.400 average) with eight runs, six RBI, six walks and four doubles. He’s now batting .238 for Las Vegas, up from .157 before his hitting streak began.
• McDonald went 2-for-4, scored the Aviators’ second run on Allen’s fifth-inning hit and also made a sensational running catch in deep center field in the sixth (immediately after Allen’s slick defensive play). McDonald has now hit safely in five of his last six contests and is batting .339 in 53 games with the Aviators, the majority of which have occurred since his second promotion from Double-A Midland to Las Vegas on July 26.
• Friedrichs came out of the bullpen to replace starter A.J. Puk in the fifth inning and kept the Aviators in the game with four outstanding innings. Although the right-hander surrendered a pair of runs in the seventh after Allen’s first single cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2, he retired 12 of the 20 batters he faced, including seven of the last eight.
Friedrichs — who was twice promoted to Las Vegas from Double-A Midland in August and has remained with the Aviators since August 21 — yielded just three hits and two walks. He struck out four, threw 43 of 68 pitches for strikes and lowered his ERA to 4.81.
GAME NOTES: The Aviators brought the tying run to the plate in each of the final two innings, but couldn’t come up with the key hit. With McDonald and Allen on base to start the eighth, designated hitter Carlos Pèrez struck out and first baseman Francisco Peña lined into a double play. Then with two on and two out in the ninth, catcher Collin Theroux took a borderline called third strike to end the game. … Second baseman Pete Kozma singled to drive in Las Vegas’ first run in the fifth. … With the loss, the Aviators (62-61) fell to 4-14 in their last 18 games. … Puk, who has toggled between the starting rotation and bullpen during his time in Las Vegas, tossed a season-high four innings. The hard-throwing southpaw gave up three runs on four hits, walked two and struck out four. … After compiling 25 runs on 31 hits (including 13 for extra bases) in the first two games of the series, Puk and Friedrichs limited the Dodgers to six singles, a double and a triple. … Designated hitter Steven Souza Jr. (3-for-5) scored three of Oklahoma City’s runs. … The Aviators have now scored six runs or fewer in 26 of their last 27 games, including the last 24 in a row.
MACHÍN TAKING OFF TO OAKLAND: Vimael Machín, who has been Las Vegas’ starting third baseman for most of the second half of the season, was held out of the lineup Saturday for good reason: He’s heading back to the Oakland A’s.
Machín on Sunday will officially take the roster spot of A’s shortstop Elvis Andrus, who injured his ankle while scoring the winning run in Oakland’s 3-2 victory over Houston on Saturday. Machín has had two brief stints with the A’s this season, going 3-for-28 (.107) with three walks and an RBI in 13 games (including six starts at shortstop).
With the Aviators this season, Machín hit .295 in 89 games with 11 homers (including two grand slams), 58 RBI and a team-best 49 walks and 65 runs.
ON DECK: Matinee baseball returns to Las Vegas Ballpark for the final time in 2021, as the Aviators and Dodgers hit the field at 12:05 p.m. Sunday in Game 4 of their five-game series. Brian Howard (6-4, 6.11 ERA) is scheduled to start for Las Vegas, while Oklahoma City will counter with Andre Jackson (2-2, 4.98) in a battle of right-handers.
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