Aviators pitcher Parker Dunshee could've been forgiven if he took a few butterflies to the mound Monday night at Las Vegas Ballpark. After all, he was making the first Triple-A start of his career less than 24 hours after arriving in Las Vegas from Double-A Midland, Texas. And that start was coming in a ballpark that's been giving up runs in bunches … against an offense that piled up 10 runs a day earlier … and on a night when a brisk wind was blowing out to right field.
So, sure, Dunshee might have been battling some nerves when he delivered his first pitch against the Tacoma Rainiers. But if those nerves existed, they disappeared rapidly.
In a memorable Triple-A debut, Dunshee struck out nine over six strong innings, and the Aviators (23-16) got seventh-inning home runs from Eric Campbell and Sheldon Neuse to rally for a 4-2 victory before a crowd of 8,393 in the second game of a four-game series.
Facing a Tacoma team that pounded out 15 hits (including eight for extra bases) in Sunday's series-opener, Dunshee recorded seven of his first nine outs via the strikeout. And while the right-hander did allow a two-run home run to Rainiers third baseman Tim Lopes with two outs in the third inning, he finished the night scattering just six hits and two walks over his six innings of work.
Most impressively, the 24-year-old from Zionsville, Indiana, finished strong, retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced. He was also efficient, throwing 63 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
The only negative for Dunshee? He failed to pick up his first Triple-A victory, as Las Vegas trailed 2-1 when he departed the game. But in the seventh, Dunshee's new teammates not only took him off the hook, but they sprinted past the Rainiers (18-21).
Eric Campbell, who scored Las Vegas' first run after walking and scoring on Beau Taylor's double in the fifth, led off the seventh against Tacoma reliever John Niese (1-1) with his fifth home run to knot the game at 2-2. After Taylor immediately followed with his team-leading 25th walk, Neuse stepped to the plate and hammered Niese's 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall for his fifth homer and a 4-2 lead.
That was all the Aviators would need, as relievers Ryan Dull and Brian Schlitter held the Rainiers to three hits over the final three innings. Dull picked up his first victory of the season, while Schlitter struck out Tacoma's Mallex Smith for his team-leading seventh save.
With that, the Aviators improved to 6-5 heading into the final game of their season-long 12-game homestand.
Game Notes:. Campbell had a perfect night at the dish, reaching base in all four of his plate appearances as he added three walks to his solo home run … Neuse (2-for-3) and Dustin Fowler (2-for-4) also had multiple hits for Las Vegas. However, Jorge Mateo's 10-game hitting streak was halted after he went 0-for-4. … Dull and Schlitter combined for four strikeouts, giving Aviators pitchers 13 for the game. … Lopes homered for the third consecutive day for Tacoma. He has four long balls in his last five games after hitting just 17 in his first 775 professional contests. … Veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc started for Tacoma and faced the minimum number of hitters through the first four innings. LeBlanc, who was making a rehab start as he works his way back to the Seattle Mariners, allowed one run on three hits and two walks over 4 1/3 innings.
J.B. Arrives in LV: The Aviators bolstered their bullpen Monday with the addition of J.B. Wendelken, who was optioned to Las Vegas when the parent Oakland A's activated pitcher Daniel Mengden on Sunday. A right-hander, Wendelken appeared in 18 games with Oakland, going 1-0 with a 5.57 ERA in 21 innings, during which he walked just six and struck out 23.
With the arrival of Wendelken, the Aviators now have a full 13-man pitching staff, including nine relief pitchers.
On Deck: The Aviators conclude their four-game series against the Rainiers and their 12-game homestand with a rare Tuesday-morning contest. First pitch for the 16th annual "Smoker's Strike Out School Day Game" is set for 10:35 a.m., with right-hander Jake Buchanan (2-1, 6.00 ERA) scheduled to start for Las Vegas. Tacoma was undecided on a starting pitcher as of Monday night. … The Aviators will end a stretch of 21 consecutive games without a day off when they get a respite Wednesday before kicking off a five-game series in Salt Lake.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.