Aviators Topple Rainiers 4-1 in Series Opener

Las Vegas quickly bounces back from tough loss, picks up fourth win in last five games

By Matt Jacob / Las Vegas Aviators | May 11, 2019 8:26 PM

When the Aviators' players arrived at Las Vegas Ballpark on Saturday to kick off a four-game series against the Tacoma Rainiers, they easily could've been in full hangover mode. After all, fewer than 24 hours had passed since they blew a four-run, ninth-inning lead and suffered a shocking 11-inning loss to Salt Lake - a loss that cost Las Vegas a four-game sweep.

 

However, Aviators manager Fran Riordan said he was pleased with the attitude of his troops when they reported for duty Saturday afternoon and expressed confidence that Friday's bitter defeat was long forgotten. "You're going to have those games over the course of a year, but these guys are ready to bounce back," Riordan said after the Aviators finished batting practice. "There's a good energy in the clubhouse today, and we're going to be ready to play."

 

Suffice it to say, Riordan's confidence was more than justified.  

 

Las Vegas promptly raced out to a 3-0 first-inning lead and got outstanding pitching from starter Tyler Alexander and two relievers, cruising to a 4-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 10,111. It was the fourth win in the last five games for the Aviators (22-15), who improved to 5-4 on their season-long 12-game homestand.

 

Aviators leadoff hitter Jorge Mateo got things started when he ripped the second pitch from Tacoma starter Justus Sheffield (1-2) to right-center to extend his hitting streak to 10 in a row. Mateo moved to second when Dustin Fowler was hit by a pitch, then scored on Corban Joseph's two-out single to left.

 

After Sheldon Neuse followed with an infield single to load the bases, Skye Bolt smacked a single to left to score Fowler and Joseph.

 

The early offensive outburst was certainly welcomed by Alexander (1-2), who wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and kept the Rainiers off the scoreboard until surrendering a solo home run to Tacoma's Tim Lopes with two outs in the fifth. Alexander retired the next batter to complete both the inning and his night of work, as the southpaw scattered two hits and four walks while striking out four.

 

It was quite the turnaround performance for Alexander, who in his previous four starts had given up 20 runs on 27 hits (including nine home runs) in 17 2/3 innings. And his bullpen made sure the solid effort wouldn't be wasted.

 

After the Aviators tacked on an insurance run on Neuse's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, reliever Ben Bracewell took over and allowed just a pair of doubles to Tacoma's Austin Nola over three scoreless innings. Then closer Brian Schlitter - who on Friday yielded the game-tying, two-out, two-strike, two-run homer against Salt Lake - worked around a two-out error in the ninth, ending the game with a strikeout of Tacoma's Billy Cooke.

 

With that whiff, Schlitter secured his sixth save and Alexander's first victory of the season - and made his skipper look like a prophet with his pregame prediction.

 

Game Notes: Schlitter was hardly the only Aviator to show some resiliency Saturday. Joseph, whose nine-game hitting streak was halted Friday when he went 0-for-5, finished 3-for-4 against the Rainiers, while Bolt went 2-for-4 one night after striking out in all five of his at-bats. … Joseph is now batting .526 (20-for-38) over his last 10 games. … Beyond his current 10-game hitting streak, Mateo has hit safely in 31 of his 34 games played … After starting in center field in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment Friday night against Salt Lake, Mark Canha played first base Saturday and went 0-for-4. Canha, who is recovering from an injured wrist, is scheduled to return to the parent Oakland A's on Sunday. … Saturday's sellout was the 18th through the first 21 games at Las Vegas Ballpark, pushing the season-long attendance past the 200,000 plateau (201,271).

 

Mengden Off to Oakland: Daniel Mengden has been the Aviators' most productive and consistent starting pitcher through the first five weeks of the 2019 season. And the A's clearly took notice, as they recalled the right-hander with the intent of starting him today against the Cleveland Indians in Oakland. It's expected to just be a spot-start, with the A's giving Mike Fiers an extra day of rest after the 131-pitch no-hitter he threw against the Reds on Monday

 

Mengden was 3-2 with a team-best 2.77 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) with Las Vegas. Besides ERA, Mengden also leads the team in innings (39), strikeouts (44) and WHIP (1.10). Last season, the 26-year-old from Houston made 22 appearances (17 starts) for the A's, going 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA.

 

Jackson Goes from A's to Jays: In the end, Edwin Jackson's Las Vegas homecoming was a short one. The A's traded the veteran right-handed pitcher to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday for cash considerations. Jackson, who pitched with the Las Vegas 51s in 2004-05, posted an 8.38 ERA in two starts with the Aviators, both of them no-decisions.

 

It remains unclear if the Blue Jays, whose pitching staff has been beset by injuries, will add Jackson to their 25-man roster. But if the 35-year-old does appear in a Toronto jersey, he will make history by playing for his 14th major league team. Jackson currently shares the record of 13 with Octavio Dotel.

 

"It's bittersweet," Aviators manager Fran Riordan said of losing Jackson. "He's just such a great guy, a great teammate, a great professional and a great presence to have around. We're definitely going to miss him here, but obviously we're excited he gets a chance to go back to the big leagues and break a record that's been around for a lot of years. We wish him all the luck."

 

On Deck: Las Vegas and Tacoma continue their four-game set at 12:05 p.m. Sunday. Right-hander Tanner Anderson (3-2, 5.46 ERA) takes the ball for the Aviators, while the Rainiers counter with righty Tyler Cloyd (0-1, 3.27).

 

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.

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