Reno Aces pitcher Jon Duplantier resumed his torrid stretch on a chilly Saturday night in a 6-3 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospect gave up one earned run on two hits, two walks and three strikeouts in 3.1 innings pitched. He lowered his ERA to 3.55 with 13 strikeouts this season.
Duplantier, 24, appears to be on a 60-pitch limit with the Triple-A club. In five starts, he’s thrown a maximum of 60 pitches twice. The Dbacks want to keep their young hurler fresh for the big leagues, and for good reason. He’s 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five relief appearances with Arizona this year.
“He had a great spring training and opened a lot of eyes,” Aces pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru said. “He works his butt of and is a competitor at heart. … I hope I don’t see him that much this year. I want to see him up there.”
Duplantier’s stuff kept Tacoma whiffing in the dirt. His fastball touched 94 mph in the first inning, but it settled around 91-92 for the remainder of the outing. The right-hander countered his heater with a mid-80s slider with plenty of break on either side of the plate.
When he faced Seattle Mariners third baseman Corey Seager, a left-handed batter, Duplantier struck him out looking his hard-breaking slider on the hands in the first inning. Against right-handed batter Braden Bishop, Duplantier threw his slider away from the zone with break at the knees for his second punchout in the third inning.
Along with a sweeping slider, Duplantier showcased a 79-mph curveball that breaks from the lower-half of the strike zone toward the dirt.
“My off-speed stuff is huge,” he said. “Guys are throwing real hard so my slider can and breaking ball can take a load off my fastball and it can add to it. It’s all just a means of keeping the hitter off balance. … They have to honor one or both, and they complement each other really nice in the way they move.”
Duplantier’s unconventional approach on the mound begins with his long-arm, low three-quarter slot delivery. Once the right-hander winds up, he hides the ball behind his head before he delivers a strike to the plate, a routine he’s developed growing up in Katy, Texas.
“I’ve been throwing this way forever,” he said. “There’s pictures of me at 10 years old throwing the way I throw now. I didn’t realize it was all that weird until one of my teammates told me in college.”
While his stuff kept Tacoma off guard, Duplantier struggled with his command. Of his 60 pitches, he had just 34 strikes. Duplantier often fell behind in the count and it led to a 23-pitch first inning.
For Country Festival Night at Greater Nevada Field, Duplantier changed his walk-up music to “Old Town Road” to show his wide palette of musical taste.
“In the musical world I’m a jack of all trades,” he said. “It depends at times, I like some country. I like Travis Scott (rap). When I get away from that stuff, I enjoy listening to jazz or some Latin beats. … I love (Domingo) Leyba’s walk-up song, it’s a banger.”
Leyba’s homer lifts Aces past Rainiers
Switch-hitting infielder Domingo Leyba is quite comfortable from the left side at Greater Nevada, he launched a 373-foot blast with the wind carrying to deep right field in the first inning.
Leyba’s four round-trippers on the year have all come from the left side and at home. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the win.
After losing eight in a row during the home stand, the Aces have rebounded with back-to-back wins in the five-game series.
Reno had 11 hits in the win. Tim Locastro finished 2-for-4 with a double and RBI. Kevin Cron recorded his 53rd RBI on the year via a sacrifice fly in the first inning. As the starting designated hitter, Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomás went 1-for-4 with an RBI single. Ildemaro Vargas and Matt Szczur each had two hits.
Aces reliever Anthony Vasquez picked up his second win of the season. The southpaw surrendered two earned runs on four hits and two walks in four innings pitched. Vasquez doesn’t pound the zone with elite stuff, but his deceptive mid-80s fastball kept baseballs in the infield for most of the contest.
Right-hander Kevin Ginkel recorded his first save of the season. The Aces bullpen has given up just two earned runs in 10.1 innings over the past two games.
Reno jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first two frames. Tacoma plated one run apiece in the third and fifth innings. The Aces responded with another run in the sixth. Both teams each had one run in the seventh.
Ginkel sealed the deal in the ninth.
Notes: Thirty-year-old right-hander Rubby de La Rosa boasts a 2-0 record with a 1.45 ERA in 16 games with the Aces this season. … Kevin Cron is 9-for-13 over his last four games with four home runs, 11 RBIs and six runs. … The Aces are 13-0 after leading through eight innings. Reno is 2-25 when they trail after eight innings. … The Aces are 3-4 on Saturdays. … There was a paid attendance of 5,342.
On Deck: Reno, 16-26, face Tacoma for the fourth game of the five-game series at 1:05 p.m. Alex Young is expected to get his second start with the Aces. The Rainiers are expected to send lefty Jon Niese to the hill in a battle of southpaws.
— Isaiah Burrows