Whenever an All-Star game roster is unveiled - no matter the sport, no matter the level - there are always a handful of players who can legitimately claim they got snubbed. Sure enough, when the Pacific Coast League last week revealed its starters and reserves for next month's Triple-A All-Star game, there were more than a couple of surprising missing names. But no omission was as glaring as that of Corban Joseph.
Not only has Joseph been the Aviators' most consistent hitter all season, but on the day the PCL All-Stars were announced, the versatile infielder was riding a nine-game hitting streak and leading the league with a .374 batting average. Nearly a week later, Joseph not only has extended his hitting streak to a season-high 14 games, he's raised his batting average to a season-best .391 by going 10-for-16 while adding six RBI and seven runs.
Just how hot is Joseph? After sitting out Sunday's game with flu-like symptoms, he came off the bench Monday night against the Reno Aces in the middle of the game and ripped an RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth, then scored on a groundout to provide the Aviators two critical insurance runs in their 8-7 victory at Las Vegas Ballpark.
In other words, the 12-year veteran has reacted to the All-Star snub in the best way possible: He's let his scalding-hot bat do all the talking. That's not to say the mild-mannered Joseph isn't a bit peeved that he failed to garner enough support from the four entities - fans, field managers, general managers and media - that determine the PCL All-Stars.
"It's a little frustrating," Joseph said prior to Monday's victory. "But ultimately, it's out of my control and beyond my pay grade. I don't get paid to make those decisions; I get paid to go out on the field and play every day. Ultimately, it's up to [others] to decide, and you have to honor the selections. There are a lot of great players on that team. So it is what it is."
And what it is to Joseph's manager is nothing short of a travesty.
"I've never seen an All-Star game, at any level, where the league's leading hitter wasn't on the team. So that was a little shocking to me," said Las Vegas skipper Fran Riordan. "I understand that Corban doesn't have the sexy home-run numbers that a lot of the guys who made the team have, but .390 is .390. And he's been so consistent all year."
The hallmark of any good hitter is the ability to steadily improve as the season moves through the dog days of summer, and that's precisely what Joseph has done. For instance, after hitting .293 in 15 games in April, he produced a .413 average in 25 games in May. Then the calendar flipped to June, and Joseph took things to an entirely new level, batting an even .500 (36-for-78) while hitting safely in 19 of the 20 games in which he played.
Over those 20 games, the 30-year-old from Tennessee also chipped in 22 runs, 18 RBI and 11 doubles, and had more than twice as many multi-hit games (12) as he did strikeouts (5). All of which begs the obvious question: Has Joseph ever had a run of success at the plate like he's currently experiencing?
"Not anything like this, no," said Joseph, whose career-best batting average came in 2016, when he hit .315 while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. "I'm just really trying to slow the game down, take the situation for what it is and put a good swing on the ball. A lot of it is luck and just grinding out at-bats and trying not to give in [to opposing pitchers] - just keep with my plan, stay within myself and do productive things for the team."
And he's certainly done that. In addition to his mindboggling batting average, Joseph leads the Aviators with a .443 on-base percentage (minimum 40 games played) and a 1.047 OPS (minimum 20 games played), and he's tied for the team-lead in hits (92) and doubles (24). All of those numbers have improved during Joseph's 14-game hitting streak, during which he's 29-for-55 (.527 batting average) with 10 multi-hit games, 19 runs, 17 RBI and 10 extra-base hits.
The most recent of those hits not only directly contributed to Monday's victory, but it came off Reno closer Jimmy Sherfy - which is noteworthy because Sherfy is on the PCL's All-Star roster.
Of course, with the Triple-A midsummer classic still eight days away, it's possible Joseph could join Sherfy in El Paso if one of the participants gets injured or is otherwise unable to play. But while Riordan is hopeful that call comes - "He's more deserving than I think anyone else who didn't get selected for the team," he said - Joseph isn't exactly sure he'd accept the invitation.
"I don't know. I'm big into principle, and I don't want to be a replacement," he said. "I want to feel like I've earned it. So it's something I'd have to think about. Besides, there are a lot of guys on this team who deserve it, too."
AVIATORS ROLL PAST ACES: Catcher Jonah Heim went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, and starting pitcher Parker Dunshee pitched six strong innings as the Aviators survived for their second straight victory over Reno.
Las Vegas (47-37) jumped out to early leads of 4-0 and 5-1, but the Aces smashed four home runs to battle back and tie the game at 5-5. The Aviators broke the tie courtesy of Dustin Fowler's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh, then boosted the lead to 8-5 when Joseph tripled home Seth Brown (leadoff walk) and scored on Heim's RBI groundout.
Those two insurance runs proved to be the game-winners, as red-hot Aces second baseman Domingo Leyba crushed Ryan Dull's two-out, two-strike pitch deep over the right-center field wall for his second home run of the game and fifth big fly of the series, cutting Las Vegas' lead to 8-7. Luckily for the Aviators, Dull nailed down his fourth save by striking out Yasmany Tomás on a slider in the dirt to end it.
Dunshee bounced back from consecutive subpar outings, taking advantage of a big early lead by attacking the strike zone and limiting the Aces (37-46) to just five baserunners (three singles and a pair of solo home runs) over his six innings. However, after Dunshee departed, Oakland A's closer Blake Treinen took the mound in his first game on a rehab assignment and squandered a 5-2 lead. The righthander gave three runs (including two homers) on four hits in his one inning of work, yet still picked up the victory as he was the pitcher of record when the Aviators' regained the lead in the bottom of the seventh.
In addition to Heim, Brown (2-for-4, two runs, two RBI) and Mark Payton (2-for-3, run) had multi-hit games for Las Vegas, which improved to 6-5 against Reno this season.
GAME NOTES: Heim extended his hitting streak to seven games, during which he's 12-for-23 (.522). Since being promoted from Double-A on June 9, the switch-hitting Heim is batting .479 with six doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI, while hitting safely in 14 of 16 games. … Fowler doubled in his first-at bat and has now hit safely in five straight games and 11 of the last 12 in which he's had at least one official at-bat, going 19-for-49 (.388) with five home runs, five doubles, three triples, 20 runs and 17 RBI. … Payton extended his hitting streak to five, during which he's 10-for-20. … Leyba went 3-for-5, with two homers and three RBI. Through the first three games of the series, he's 10-for-15 with five homers and 12 RBI.
TRANSACTION ACTION: The Oakland A's, parent club of the Aviators, optioned catcher Beau Taylor back to Las Vegas on Monday. The move was made to clear a roster spot for catcher Chris Herrmann, who completed his rehabilitation assignment with the Aviators on Sunday and is expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday.
Taylor appeared in eight games with Oakland, going 4-for-19 with two solo home runs and four walks. In 38 games with the Aviators, Taylor is batting .297 with five homers, eight doubles, 33 walks, 20 RBI and 28 runs.
ON DECK: As part of Minor League Baseball's ongoing Copa de la Diversión ("Fun Cup") initiative, the Aviators on Tuesday will once again celebrate the local Hispanic/Latino community when they transform into their alter ego, the Reyes de Plata, in the fourth game of a five-game series against the Aces. Southpaw Jesús Luzardo (1-0, 4.32 ERA), the 21-year-old top prospect of the A's, is scheduled to make his third start for Las Vegas and oppose Reno right-hander Braden Shipley (2-3, 7.46).
Las Vegas is 4-0 this season when playing as the Reyes de Plata, which translates as "Silver Kings."
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.