“It ain’t over till it’s over.” — Yogi Berra
Hard to conceive a few weeks ago, the Reno Aces are making a run at first place in the Pacific Coast League’s Northern Pacific Division.
Reno, which has spent several weeks this summer in the division’s cellar, has won 15 of its last 19 games and is now in second place, seven games behind the Sacramento River Cats. Although the Aces play just 20 more games, eight of them are with Sacramento. A victory tonight in Oklahoma City would give Reno its sixth-straight series wins.
The Aces and River Cats square off on Thursday, Aug. 15 at Greater Nevada Field for a four-game series. The opening game will be the final Copa de la Diversion game of the year, but the Aces’ red-hot offense shouldn’t slow down anytime soon.
Reno has averaged more than nine runs per contest over the last 19 games. Ildemaro Vargas extended his hitting streak to a season-high 15 games. Ben DeLuzio is batting .444 with two doubles and nine RBIs over his last 10 games. The speedy Florida State product has four triples and three stolen bases with the Aces.
Andy Young has six homers and 13 RBIs over his last 10 games. Young went 2-for-4 with two solo home runs in a 8-7 victory over the New Orleans Baby Cakes on Aug. 8. He was named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week. His powerful bat in the lineup has since his call-up to Triple-A Reno on June 16. Young is up to 16 homers and 39 RBIs in 49 games.
One of the player to come aboard in the Zack Greinke trade, Josh Rojas launched a three-run pinch-hit homer in the Aces’ 10-4 win over the Baby Cakes on Aug. 10. Rojas, 25, didn’t stick around long. The Glendale, Arizona, native was called up to the Aces’ parent club, the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. In his Major League debut, Rojas went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the Dbacks’ 8-6 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Offense hasn’t been the only driving for the Aces’ late-season push. Reno has surrendered four or less runs three times during the seven-game road trip.
Right-hander Matt Koch had the first 10-plus strikeout game for the Aces since Anthony Banda accomplished the feat in 2017. Koch went six innings, giving up two earned runs with 11 strikeouts in a 10-2 win over Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Braden Shipley recorded his 25th win in an Aces uniform, topping Charles Brewer for the most in franchise history.
The Aces enter the homestand with lots of momentum, but taking down the River Cats, Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, is a tough task.
Sacramento is fourth in the PCL with a 5.03 team ERA and second with 1,069 strikeouts. The River Cats’ loaded pitching staff is led by starters Dereck Rodriguez and Conner Menez and PCL All-Star reliever Fernando Abad.
Menez has three starts with the Giants this season while Rodriguez has 10 starts and 19 appearances overall.
Offensively, slugging third/first baseman Zach Green leads the team with 25 homers and a 1.055 OPS. Mike Gerber has a team-high .316 batting average to go along with 79 RBIs and 80 runs this season.
The Aces have a crucial division matchup when the River Cats come to town. They face Oklahoma City for the final game of the four-game series at 5:05 p.m. Pacific at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark before a travel day on Wednesday.
Kevin Cron’s three home run night sets Aces’ franchise record
Aces slugging first baseman has been on a torrid stretch at the plate. Tuesday night’s 10-6 loss to Oklahoma City was another one for the record books.
Cron went 3-for-5 with three homers and five RBIs. It’s his fourth three-homer game this season, his 58 career home runs in 172 games set a new franchise record. He leads the PCL with 36 homers and 95 RBIs this season. Cron broke Christian Walker’s single-season home run record on Sunday.
— Isaiah Burrows