Ildemaro Vargas picked up where he left off for the Reno Aces – playing Saturday night as Los Corazones de Reno – but a comeback fell just short as the Salt Lake Bees won, 8-7.
Earlier in the day, Vargas was optioned back to Triple-A Reno from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made his Aces debut on Copa de la Diversión night at Greater Nevada Field. Vargas was a home run shy of the cycle in his first game back with Reno since Sept. 3 of last season.
A switch-hitter, Vargas went 3-for-3 with two walks, a triple that dribbled to the right field corner in his first at-bat, a double down the third base line in his second at-bat and a single in the seventh.
The two teams changed their name to Los Corazones de Reno and Las Abejas de Salt Lake in combined efforts with MiLB to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture.
The festivities brought in a paid attendance of 5,773, a new season high. The first 1,000 fans received a replica Los Corazones de Reno jersey. Street tacos and chicken tortas had hundreds gathered around the four concession stands on the concourse. Six dollar margaritas helped participants cool off on a 74-degree night.
As the starting shortstop, Vargas wasted no time showcasing his cat-like quickness defensively. The rangy infielder made a smooth glove-to-hand transfer for the 6-4-3 double play in the second inning.
“He’s just a great player in general,” Aces closer Jimmie Sherfy said. “The transfers he makes defensively are the best I’ve ever seen. It’s unreal.”
A native of Caripito, Venezuela, Vargas hit .200 with with a homer and four RBIs in 26 games with the Dbacks. His 287 career games and 392 hits rank second and fourth in Aces’ history, both figures are the most by a Latin player. He had a franchise-record 35-game hitting streak last season.
Nicknamed “El Tigre,” Vargas wore the No. 8 against Salt Lake. His call-up to the Dbacks left his previous jersey No. 1 up for grabs back in Reno. Venezuelan teammate Juniel Querecuto, who wore No. 26 with the Aces last season, chose No. 1 to represent his partner in crime.
“That’s my guy, we’re like brothers,” Querecuto said. “I wear it for him. I’ve learned so much from his game and wish him the best.”
The Aces brought their piñata bats without the blindfold, launching four homers and 10 hits in the loss.
Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomás launched his eighth home run of the year over the scoreboard in left field. Dominican Republic native Abraham Almonte went 2-for-4 with a towering home run to center field. Wyatt Mathisen finished 2-for-3 with a two-run bomb in the sixth. Travis Snider’s three-run blast trimmed Reno’s deficit to one run in the eighth.
Salt Lake, Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, featured two players along the southern coast of Venezuela. Catcher Jose Briceno finished 1-for-4 with a single and two RBIs. Shortstop Wilfredo Tovar added two hits.
Braden Shipley was tagged with the loss in his second start, giving up five earned runs on four hits in 3.1 innings. Shipley pounded the inside part of the plate with a low-90s two-seam fastball, but home plate umpire Alex MacKay’s tight zone didn’t give him the called strike. As a result, Shipley gave up two walks and surrendered four runs in the fourth inning.
Salt Lake jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first. The Bees scored seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Reno had one run in the fourth and three more in the sixth. Snider’s homer tacked on another three runs in the eighth, bringing some late game excitement.
The Aces couldn’t complete the comeback in the ninth inning, when Tomás struck out with Vargas on third base.
Notes: Former Reno Aces outfielder Cesar Puello is now a member of the Salt Lake Bees. In 73 games with the Aces last season, Puello hit .317 with six homers and 33 RBIs. The Dominican Republic native is batting .304 with four homers with the Bees this season. … Abraham Almonte has a team-high three outfield assists. … Taylor Clarke’s 173 strikeouts rank sixth all-time in Aces’ history. … Reno is 6-14 on the road this year.
On Deck: Reno, 14-22, faces Salt Lake for the second game of the four-game series at 1:05 p.m. Aces pitcher Alex Young will start for the first time this season. The southpaw is 2-0 with a 6.55 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 22 innings of relief. Dillon Peters is the expected starter for the Bees.