The Reno Aces completed the home half of a split six-game series Thursday versus the San Francisco Giants Triple A affiliate Sacramento River Cats, dropping two out of three to their neighbors to the west at Greater Nevada Field in downtown Reno.
Game one on Tuesday, June 28 was on a breezy and warm evening and marked the halfway point in the Triple-A season. What was a close game through the first six innings turned into a slugfest as the River Cats would seize control for a 9-7 win.
Stone Garrett answered Sacramento’s run in the top of the first with a two-run blast to deep center field for his 19th HR of the year, scoring Jake McCarthy for a 2-1 Aces lead.
That score would remain until the fifth inning when the River Cats would plate a pair of runs in the top half of the inning off of starter Ryne Nelson. Nelson went six strong innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits, along with six strikeouts.
Reno would knot the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth on McCarthy’s fielder’s choice grounder to first, scoring Jancarlos Cintron from third.
The score was still even at three runs apiece when Reno’s Mitchell Stumpo entered in relief of Nelson to begin the seventh. Stumpo, who had only allowed two runs in the month of June, was touched for four earned runs and absorbed the loss.
The big blow was a two-run double off the bat of Sacramento’s Joey Bart, who after two months as the starting catcher and trying to fill the shoes of the retired Buster Posey, was sent down recently by the Giants to regain his confidence at the plate.
Sacramento would add two more in the eighth for a 9-4 advantage. Reno would make it interesting with three runs in their last at-bat, but the insurance runs proved to be the difference.
Game two was a quick turnaround with a 12:05 p.m. start in hot, bright sunshine and a moderate breeze.
Reno’s Tommy Henry earned the victory with a quality start going seven shutout innings while fanning eight River Cats in a 5-3 Aces win.
Stone Garrett would once again be the first to drive in an Aces run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first, scoring Jake McCarthy for a 1-0 lead.
It was the only run that Sacramento’s starting pitcher, Raynel Espinal would yield in his five innings of work, yet he was tagged with the tough-luck loss.
Despite the warm temps where you might expect baseballs to be flying out of Greater Nevada Field, it was a pitcher’s duel until Reno widened their lead in the bottom of the eighth on shortstop Cole Tucker’s solo HR; his first as a member of the Reno Aces. Trotting around the bases with a huge smile on his face, shoulder-length curly locks trailing in the wind, you couldn’t help but wonder between himself and girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens (“High School Musical,” “Tick, Tick, Boom”), who spends more time on their hair in the morning.
Tucker, a former first round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who was claimed off of waivers by Arizona and optioned to Reno on June 5, is hoping his bat continues to produce and gets the call up to the Phoenix native’s hometown Diamondbacks.
Leading 2-0 after Tucker’s HR, the Aces loaded the bases against former Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller, and that man Stone Garrett made him pay once again. Garrett roped Miller’s 0-1 offering to the left field wall and cleared the bases for a 5-0 lead that as it turned out, they would need.
Aces reliever Keynan Middleton entered the ninth with the five-run cushion and all sorts of adventures ensued including a wild pitch, a walk, a three-run homer and a Middleton throwing error. Suddenly Sacramento had the tying run at the plate with two out. But a mound visit from pitching coach Doug Drabek settled the hurler down just enough to get Ka’ai Tom to strike out swinging and preserve the win.
Game three went to Sacramento 6-1 on the strength of first baseman Jason Vosler’s two home runs and strong pitching from the River Cats, limiting Reno to just six hits and one run in the contest.
The loss dropped Reno’s record to 39-36, three and a half games behind division leading Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League’s West division.
The Aces head out on the road to complete their split home and home series with Sacramento on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and return to Greater Nevada Field on Monday, July 4 to host a six-game series with the Tacoma Rainiers. It will also be fireworks night for an Independence Day celebration after the game.
Michael Smyth is a writer and photographer who moved to Reno from the Bay Area in 2007. Michael retired from a corporate road-warrior sales career in 2017 where he wrote freelance small-venue music reviews on the side to keep his sanity on the road. When he isn’t covering a concert or sporting event he might be found concocting a salsa recipe, throwing barbless flies in search of trout, or recapturing the skip-and-stop wedge shot of his youth.