Fresno shaves three games off Reno’s division lead
Last week’s Aces Report started with a splash of reality and positivity. It was reflective of Reno’s start to the season.
Reno was just coming off a series victory over second-place Tacoma and sat a season-high 20 games over .500 with a nine-game lead in the Pacific Northern Division.
A key injury will stagnate the steamroll, the dog days of summer will take their toll, the bats will cool off, and/or a relied-upon player will earn a permanent promotion. Something will happen. The 144-game season is too long for everything to go smoothly for the duration.
But it doesn’t appear that momentum-stopping stretch is coming anytime soon.
Following the release of starting third baseman Carlos Rivero, who is heading overseas for a larger paycheck, shortstop Ketel Marte and second baseman Ildemaro Vargas were both called up by Arizona this week. Marte spent last season with the Mariners, but for Vargas, it was his first appearance in The Show.
The one-week window left Reno without three of its four starting infielders.
Reno dropped three straight at Salt Lake (matching its longest skid of the year), then salvaged a 3-2 10-inning win on Thursday afternoon. It was just the Aces’ second series defeat of the year. The offense that just pushed across 28 runs in a four-game series victory over Tacoma, was held to 13 runs in the quartet of games in Utah.
The ensuing series at El Paso started on the same somber note, a 13-4 loss despite two home runs from the rehabbing A.J. Pollock, who’s time in Reno is coming to a close.
A three-game homestand against Tacoma, followed by a three-game series squeezed into two days at red-hot Fresno, leads into the four-day All-Star break. And for a Reno team suddenly trying to fill roles, the break couldn’t come at a better time.
Last week: 3-3
Upcoming Schedule (July 4-10)
July 4: HOME vs Tacoma 6:35 p.m.
July 5: HOME vs Tacoma 7:05 p.m.
July 6: HOME vs Tacoma 7:05 p.m.
July 7: AWAY at Fresno 7:05 p.m.
July 8: DH AWAY at Fresno 5:05 p.m.
July 9: OFF (All-star break)
July 10: OFF (All-star break)
-2B Ildemaro Vargas, 25, was promoted to Arizona in his first big-league callup after 738 minor-league games. Vargas made his Major League debut on Thursday in a 10-4 home loss to St. Louis, striking out in a pinch hit at bat. Vargas is having a stellar season in Reno and was just named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team. He’s batting .303 with six home runs, 24 doubles, 43 RBIs and scored a PCL-leading 64 runs.
-SS Ketel Marte, 23, earned his first callup to Arizona. He made his Diamondbacks’ debut last Wednesday, flying out in a pinch hit at bat. He started one day later, going 1-for-3 with a double and scoring once in a 10-4 loss to St. Louis while batting in the No. 8 spot. In Reno, Marte has been one of the best offensive players in baseball. He’s hitting .338 with six home runs, seven triples, 23 doubles, 41 RBIs and scored 62 times.
-2B Kevin Medrano, 27, was promoted to Reno from Double-A Jackson. Medrano was hitting .322 in the Southern League with 26 RBIs and 36 runs in 58 games. Medrano made his 2017 Aces debut in Friday’s 13-4 loss at El Paso, going 3-for-5 with a triple. In 23 games with the Aces last year, Medrano batting .146 (6-for-41) with one RBI.
A.J. Pollock. Arizona’s rehabbing centerfielder went 2-for-4 with a pair of solo home runs in Friday’s lopsided loss at El Paso. They were his first two home runs and first two RBIs in six games with the Aces, but if Arizona was looking for one last optimistic sign (other than his health), two long balls did just that.
Salt Lake slump. Reno’s offense was the best in the Pacific Coast League, until Carlos Rivero (released), Ketel Marte (promoted) and Ildemaro Vargas (promoted) all left. And it showed in Reno’s four-game series at Salt Lake. The offense scored just 13 runs in the set against a Bee’s pitching staff that has an ERA (5.18) that ranks 12th in the Pacific Coast League.
Pacific Coast League Standings
Reno Aces (ARI) 51-32
Fresno Grizzlies (HOU) 45-38
Tacoma Rainiers (SEA) 42-39
Sacramento River Cats (SF) 32-49
Salt Lake Bees (LAA) 46-37
Albuquerque Isotopes (COL) 40-42
El Paso Chihuahuas (SD) 39-44
Las Vegas 51s (NYM) 32-51
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (MIL) 50-31
Oklahoma City Dodgers (LAD) 45-36
Omaha Storm Chasers (KC) 38-43
Iowa Cubs (CHC) 38-45
Memphis Redbirds (STL) 50-32
Nashville Sounds (OAK) 40-42
Round Rock Express (TEX) 39-44
New Orleans Baby Cakes (MIA) 30-52
*All stats and standings are as of Sunday, July 2.