Thrilling. Frenetic. Bizarre. Frustrating. Puzzling. Historic. Pick an adjective, any adjective - they all applied to the opening game of the Las Vegas Aviators' season-long 12-game homestand Friday night.
A seesaw affair from start to finish, the Aviators came up on the short end of the stick against the Fresno Grizzlies, losing 5-4 in 11 innings before a sellout crowd of 10,171 - the 13th sellout in as many games at Las Vegas Ballpark.
It was a night that featured tremendous and poor defensive plays (from both teams), smart and boneheaded baserunning (from both teams), and clutch and unproductive at-bats (from both teams). Throw in a combined 22 strikeouts, five home runs, 24 runners left on base (12 by each club) and four lead changes, and you had the wildest game (and very first extra-innings affair) in the brief history of Las Vegas Ballpark.
The best place to start? Why not near the finish. Trailing 4-3 and down to their final out, the Aviators (17-12) tied things up in the bottom of the ninth inning when Matt Olson - who had been hitless in 11 at-bats since joining the Aviators earlier this week on a rehab assignment from the Oakland A's - smashed an opposite-field home run over the left-field wall off Fresno reliever Jimmy Cordero.
Prior to Olson's blast, the Aviators had made 10 consecutive outs. But immediately afterward, Corban Joseph hammered a Cordero pitch to dead center field. The ball glanced off the glove of Grizzlies center fielder Collin Cowgill, and Joseph - who homered earlier in the game - landed on third with a triple.
Following an intentional walk to Seth Brown, Dustin Fowler ended a tense 12-pitch at-bat by popping out to third base, sending the game to extra innings. Because of new pace-of-play rules that were instituted in minor-league baseball prior to last season, the batter who makes the final out of the previous inning starts every subsequent extra inning on second base.
After neither team took advantage of the bonus baserunner in the 10th, Fresno (13-15) pushed a run across in the 11th on two groundouts off Las Vegas reliever Norge Ruiz (0-1). The Aviators tried to get the equalizer in the bottom of the 11th, but Franklin Barreto - who started the inning at second and moved to third on a groundout - was thrown out at home on Jorge Mateo's groundball back to Grizzlies pitcher Dakota Bacus (2-0). Mateo advanced to second on the play, where he was stranded when pinch-hitter Mark Payton struck out to end it.
Although the Aviators lost their sixth consecutive home game (and eighth in their last 10 overall), there were several positives: They rallied three times to either tie or take the lead; Joseph finished 3-for-5 with a home run (his third of the season), triple and two RBIs; Tyler Ramirez went 2-for-4 and knocked in a run; and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson had a solid season debut, allowing two runs on three hits with four walks and four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
NOTES: Mateo singled in the fourth inning and has now hit safely in 23 of 26 games this season. He leads Las Vegas with a .339 batting average (41-for-121) … With the Aviators and Grizzlies combing for five home runs Friday, there have now been 39 long balls hit in the last six games at Las Vegas Ballpark … Las Vegas and Fresno resume their four-game set at 7:05 tonight, with the Aviators' Jake Buchanan (2-1, 5.88) scheduled to oppose Paolo Espino in the second straight clash of right-handers. The first 2,500 fans through the gates receive a free Aviators hat, courtesy of Credit One Bank.
Catch every Aviators game throughout the season on NBC Sports Radio 920-AM, and follow us on Twitter @AviatorsLV.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.