Aces take five-game lead into All-Star break despite recent struggles
On June 25, Reno handled Tacoma 9-1 to jump a season-high 20 games over .500 and open a nine-game division lead. It was the Pacific North leader’s eighth win in 11 tries.
Over the final 14 games going into the All-Star break, the Aces went 6-8 and saw their division lead trimmed to five games by a suddenly red-hot Fresno team that at one point won 12 in a row.
The relative slide coincided with the release of starting third baseman Carlos Rivero (June 22), who signed with the Tokyo Swallows, and the promotion of shortstop Ketel Marte (June 28). Leaving Reno as the Pacific Coast League’s hit leader, Marte has appeared in nine games with Arizona, going 5-for-20 with a home run, double, and three RBIs.
Without the table-setting Marte and run producing Rivero, Reno’s prolific offense was held to four runs or fewer in eight of the final 14 games of the first half (57 percent). In their first 76 contests of the year, the Aces scored less than five runs just 33 percent of the time (25 of 76 games).
The bats, except for Ildemaro Vargas, Christian Walker and Oswaldo Arcia, who were selected to play in the Triple-A All-Star Game Wednesday in Tacoma, get a four-day break before starting the 52-game second half of the season on Thursday.
Reno begins with an eight-game home stand, starting with four against El Paso and ending with four against Salt Lake. A slight majority (28 of 52) of Reno’s second-half contests will be at Greater Nevada Field.
The Aces are one of the toughest teams to beat at their home park this year, going 29-14 at Greater Nevada Field. Only Colorado Springs (30-13) is better when getting the last at bat.
Last week: 3-4
Upcoming Schedule (July 10-16)
July 10: OFF (All-Star break)
July 11: OFF (All-Star break)
July 12: OFF (All-Star break)
July 13: HOME vs El Paso 7:05 p.m.
July 14: HOME vs El Paso 7:05 p.m.
July 15: HOME vs El Paso 7:05 p.m.
July 16: HOME vs El Paso 1:05 p.m.
-2B Ildemaro Vargas, 25, was optioned back to Reno after a brief first stint in the Major Leagues. Vargas was up with Arizona for six days, earning just a pair of pinch hit at bats. He is still seeking his first Major League base hit after going 0-for-2 with a punch out. Vargas returned to Reno in time to compete in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star game in Tacoma. He was one of four Aces selected.
-RHP Braden Shipley, 25, was sent back to Reno after a rough bullpen appearance with Arizona. After a scoreless inning of work on June 27 in a 6-5 walk-off win over St. Louis, the Nevada alum and first-round draft pick appeared the following day and was dinged for just one run, despite four hits, one walk and one intentional walk in 1.1 innings against the Cardinals. He also struck out three, but did not appear again before getting demoted. Shipley owns an ERA of 6.35 and a WHIP of 2.29 in 11.1 innings spanning four appearances (two starts) with Arizona.
-RHP Jake Buchanan, 27, was signed as a free agent and promptly started on Thursday at home against Tacoma. He lasted just four innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on six hits while striking out three and walking nobody. He received a no decision in Reno’s 9-7 comeback victory. The eighth-round pick by the Houston Astros in 2010 has thrown 64.2 innings in the Major Leagues with a 4.73 ERA and 2-3 record. He appeared in five games with the Reds earlier this season and had his struggles in 14.1 innings out of the bullpen. He allowed 13 runs (8.16 ERA) on 14 hits with four strikeouts and seven walks.
Christian Walker. The Aces only scored three runs on Saturday as they were swept in a doubleheader at Fresno, but the slugging first baseman was responsible for one of them. His league-leading 88th RBI matched a franchise record for runs driven in before the All-Star break.
Braden Shipley. Going for a series win in Saturday’s nightcap at Fresno, the Nevada product was roughed up for seven runs on 10 hits in just four innings. He walked three, did not strike out anyone, and took the loss in a 9-2 defeat. In his last two starts since returning to Reno from Arizona, Shipley has allowed 12 runs on 21 hits in just nine innings.
Pacific Coast League Standings
Reno Aces (ARI) 54-36
Fresno Grizzlies (HOU) 49-41
Tacoma Rainiers (SEA) 45-43
Sacramento River Cats (SF) 35-53
Salt Lake Bees (LAA) 49-41
Albuquerque Isotopes (COL) 44-44
El Paso Chihuahuas (SD) 44-46
Las Vegas 51s (NYM) 34-55
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (MIL) 55-33
Oklahoma City Dodgers (LAD) 49-40
Iowa Cubs (CHC) 42-48
Omaha Storm Chasers (KC) 40-48
Memphis Redbirds (STL) 55-33
Nashville Sounds (OAK) 42-47
Round Rock Express (TEX) 40-49
New Orleans Baby Cakes (MIA) 35-55
*All stats and standings are as of Sunday, July 9.