Rare is the day when a baseball team scores 11 runs in an inning … capped by its third grand slam in as many days … and has a player compile seven RBI in his first three at-bats.
Even rarer? When a baseball team does all that … and loses. Yet that’s exactly what happened to the Aviators on Monday night.
In one of the wildest — and ugliest — games played in the 38-year history of the Las Vegas franchise, the Aviators squandered a pair of six-run leads and fell 21-16 to the Reno Aces before a crowd of 6,152 at Las Vegas Ballpark.
The Aviators (18-17) erased a 6-1 deficit in the bottom of the third inning, when they sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 11 times. Vimael Machín started the scoring with a two-run double and capped it with a one-out grand slam, his team’s third slam in as many days. The second baseman also was responsible for driving in Las Vegas’ first run on a first-inning groundout, giving him seven RBI in his first three at bats.
Just how zany was the third inning? Eight of the nine batters in the Aviators’ lineup scored a run, with the top three in the order — Luis Barrera, Pete Kozma and Machín — each crossing home plate twice. Even more bizarre: First baseman Frank Schwindel, who earlier on Monday learned he was named the Triple-A West (formerly Pacific Coast League) Player of the Week, made the first two outs in the inning.
Unfortunately for Las Vegas, the Aces’ explosive offense refused to wilt on a night when the temperature at first pitch was 108 degrees.
Trailing 13-5 heading into the seventh, Reno (21-16) erupted for 14 runs in its final three turns at bat. The Aces sent 11 men to the plate in a five-run seventh; 11 more to the plate in a six-run eighth; and eight to the plate in a three-run ninth.
One day after producing 19 hits in a 15-7 victory over Las Vegas, the Aces picked up 22 more on Monday, including five home runs. Also, for the second straight game, everyone in Reno’s lineup had at least one hit, with six players collecting multiple hits. Second baseman Josh VanMeter had a career in one night, reaching base safely in all seven of his plate appearances courtesy of a two-run homer, a three-run homer, a single and four walks.
Also coming up huge for Reno were center fielder Matt Lipka (5-for-6, homer, three runs, three RBI); left fielder Camden Duzenack (4-for-6, homer, four runs, three RBI); and designated hitter Jamie Ritchie (3-for-6, walk, four runs, one RBI).
Like the Aces, everyone in the Aviators’ lineup also had at least one hit — the second time in three days they accomplished that feat. Besides Machín, left fielder Luis Barrera (single, double, triple, walk, three runs, RBI) and designated hitter Carlos Pérez (3-for-5, two-run homer, three runs) also had big nights.
The problem? The same couldn’t be said of Las Vegas’ pitching staff, as starting pitcher Daulton Jefferies and six relievers combined to allow 11 walks in addition to the 22 hits. On top of that, the Aviators — who entered Monday as the second-best defensive squad in the 10-team Triple-A West — committed four errors.
Not that Reno’s pitching (five walks) and defense (two errors) was a whole lot better. Throw in the fact the teams also combined to hit three batters and hurl two wild pitches, and it’s safe to say this game won’t show up on any “How to Pitch and Play Defense” video tutorials anytime soon.
GAME NOTES: Through the first five games of this six-game series, the Aviators and Aces have combined for 109 runs, including 80 in the last three days alone. On Monday, these instate rivals scored 20 runs in the first four innings. … Jefferies entered Monday with a 1.37 ERA in his first three starts with Las Vegas (19 2/3 innings). However, he allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks in just four innings against Reno. When the right-hander walked Aces catcher Bryan Holaday in the second inning, it snapped a string of 20 2/3 innings to start the season without issuing a free pass. … Aviators center fielder Cody Thomas continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs and an RBI. Thomas is 18-for-49 over his last 13 games with five doubles, six homers, 16 RBI and 15 runs. During this stretch, he’s raised his batting average from .175 to .278 … Schwindel, who went 1-for-4 Monday, became the first Aviator this season to win Player of the Week honors after going 12-for-28 (.429 batting average) with six home runs, three doubles, nine runs and 10 RBI from June 7 through Sunday. … Las Vegas failed to turn a double play Monday after doing so seven times in the first four games of this series. The Aviators still lead the league with 98 double plays. On the downside, they’ve committed six errors in the last two games after having only 19 miscues in their first 33 contests.
INJURY REPORT: Infielder Edwin Diaz (oblique) was officially placed on the injured list Tuesday, joining fellow infielder Mickey White (broken hand) and starting pitcher Parker Dunshee (right shoulder) as Aviators who are currently on the injured list. That trio likely will be joined soon by utfielder Buddy Reed, who hasn’t played since last Wednesday because of a hand injury.
Relief pitcher Zach Jackson will take one of the open roster spots Thursday, having been promoted from Double-A Midland (Texas). The right-hander appeared in 14 games with the RockHounds, going 1-1 with a 0.55 ERA and five saves in as many opportunities. In 16 1/3 innings with Midland, Jackson allowed just three runs (one earned) on seven hits and seven walks with 34 strikeouts.
ON DECK: The Aviators and Aces conclude their six-game set Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., with Las Vegas taking the field as their alter ego, the Reyes de Plata, as part of Minor League Baseball’s Copa de la Diversión initiative that celebrates local Hispanic/Latino culture. Brian Howard (1-2, 4.76 ERA), who started the series opener Thursday, returns to the mound for Las Vegas and is slated to oppose fellow right-hander Corbin Martin (2-0, 5.32).
Following an off-day Wednesday, the Aviators will welcome the Tacoma Rainiers (Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners) to Las Vegas Ballpark for a six-game series that runs through June 22.
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