Getaway day came too soon for the streakin’ Reno Aces.
The Aces’ 6-3 loss on Thursday to the Las Vegas Aviators, the minor league affiliate of the Oakland A’s, tied the Silver State Diamond Challenge at two games apiece to end a nine-game homestand. Both teams battled it out, but a talented Aviators squad with several highly touted prospects put a knot in the final game of the series.
Reno went 6-3 over the home stretch to bring it to 11-16 on the year, just 3.5 games back of the Sacramento River Cats for first place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Division. The Aces and River Cats will begin a four-game series in Sacramento on Friday.
Fueled by plenty of offense and solid pitching, the Aces enter an eight-game road trip with plenty of momentum.
“I think we’re doing a good job of grinding (games) out,” Aces’ manager Chris Cron said. “Some things are getting away from us (early), but we keep battling out there and that’s what you want to see.”
The Aces lost the first game of the homestand against the Fresno Grizzlies, but they swept the remainder of the five-game series on the heels of an historic comeback.
Trailing 13-5 in the bottom of the ninth and down by as much as 12-2 in the contest, Andrew Aplin’s walk-off grand slam sealed a nine-run inning to a 14-13 victory on April 27. It marked the largest comeback in Aces history.
In the second game of the series, Tim Locastro and Kevin Cron each homered three times for the first time in Aces history in a 15-5 victory.
Locastro and Cron both homered in the first and second innings. Cron launched his third in the fourth. Locastro hit a grand slam in the fifth. Both players combined for seven hits and 13 RBIs.
“I think we both just saw the ball well out there,” Cron said. “For me, I just tried to keep it simple and find a good pitch to hit. Tonight, it worked out that way and sometimes it just happens that way.”
The sluggers did not cool down during the remainder of the homestand. Cron launched a two-run bomb to left-center to cut the Aces deficit in the sixth inning. The slugging first/third baseman is batting .333 with six homers and 16 RBIs in his last nine games. His 12 round-trippers and 35 RBIs on the year are tied for first in the PCL.
Locastro is riding an eight-game hit streak, he’s 16-for-31 with four homers, 11 RBIs and 11 runs in that span. He was called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 7 and sent back to Reno on April 20. Locastro is scorching hot as of late, and his right-handed pop at the plate can be an asset in Chase Field.
Juniel Querecuto made his first home appearance after starting the year in extended spring training. The Barquisimeto, Venezuela native hit the go-ahead homer in the Aces 4-3 victory over Las Vegas on April 30.
Primarily a plug-and-play shortstop/second baseman, Querecuto started tonight’s game in center field for the first time this season. He had starts in all all three outfield positions during the home stand and he flashed the glove with a sliding catch in the second inning.
“It’s good to be back here with the rest of the guys,” he said. “I’m already getting comfortable.”
Reno’s pitching staff led the way in the Silver State Challenge. Relievers Alex Young, Stefan Crichton and Jimmie Sherfy tossed 5.1 scoreless innings to keep the Aces 4-3 win intact. Young has a 2-0 record with a team-high 22 strikeouts this season.
Aces starting pitcher Taylor Clarke pitched five scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the Aviators, it was the team’s first shutout since April 13, 2018. Clarke is responsible for three of the Aces four shutouts over the last two seasons.
With Reno rising in the standings, Chris Cron is focused on finding a groove over the road trip to Sacramento and Tacoma.
“We just gotta keep the mental errors at a minimum,” he said. “It’s a long season and we’re starting to find our stride.”
Cron, Leyba homer in Aces loss
Homers from Cron and Domingo Leyba couldn’t propel the Aces to victory on Thursday.
Cron jumped on a 1-1 slider from Vegas starter Tanner Anderson and took it over the scoreboard in left-center.
Leyba launched his third home run of the season over the party zone with the wind carrying to right field. The switch-hitting shortstop went a perfect 4-for-4 with one RBI and two runs.
Rehabbing a broken hamate bone in his right hand, Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson went hitless in the Biggest Little City. The 2018 Gold Glove Award winner stretched the legs to pick a bouncing throw from third baseman Sheldon Nurse in the third inning.
Starting pitcher Justin Donatella picked up the loss. He went three innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits, four walks and two strikeouts.
Las Vegas plated runs two runs apiece in the second and third innings. Jorge Mateo’s bases-clearing two-RBI triple put the Aviators up 6-0 in the top of the fifth.
Cron’s two-run blast cut Reno’s deficit. Leyba followed with a solo shot in the eighth. Before the eighth inning came to a close, Cody Decker had a few words for home plate umpire Alex MacKay after he struck out looking.
The Aces couldn’t force a comeback in the ninth despite a two-out single from Marty Herum.
Notes: The Aces are 45-39 all-time at home against the Las Vegas, and are 35-45 on the road. Reno has an all-time record of 756-702 … The Aces are 6-5 when scoring first this season. They are 5-11 when the opponent scores first. … Reno is 10-7 this season when scoring four or more runs.
On Deck: The Aces hit the road to face the Sacramento River Cats, Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants Friday at 7:05 p.m. Shaun Anderson is the expected starter for the River Cats. The Aces have not announced a starting pitcher
— Isaiah Burrows