Aviators Snap Four-Game Skid with Convincing 8-2 Victory over Oklahoma City
Having lost 14 of their previous 18 games, including four in a row, the Aviators walked into Las Vegas Ballpark for Sunday afternoon's game against the Oklahoma City Dodgers with one simple mission: find a way to pick up a victory-_any _victory.
Nail-biter, blowout, come-from-behind, walk-off, mistake-filled-it didn't matter.
Well, the Aviators accomplished their mission. That they did it by delivering one of their most dominating performances in weeks-one in which nearly every player who took the field contributed? That was the proverbial icing on the cake.
First baseman Carlos Pèrez belted his Triple-A West-leading 31st home run, shortstop Nick Allen extended his hitting streak to 11 games with another multi-hit effort and starting pitcher Brian Howard tossed six sensational innings, all of which added up to a comfortable 8-2 victory before a sundrenched crowd of 6,084.
Not only did the Aviators (63-61) snap their four-game losing skid, but they picked up their first victory in the "Triple-A Final Stretch," a 10-game season-ending sprint that Minor League Baseball created in lieu of a postseason tournament. And it was as impressive a victory as any Las Vegas has posted all season.
Among the many highlights:
- Every hitter in the lineup reached base safely via hit or walk, with four players - Pèrez, Allen, left fielder Marty Bechina and catcher Collin Theroux - finishing with two hits apiece.
- Three Aviators homered, with Bechina and Theroux hitting solo shots in the second and third innings, respectively, to stake Las Vegas to a 2-0 lead it would never relinquish. Pèrez then snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a three-run bomb in the fifth that boosted his team's lead to 5-1.
- Howard surrendered just one run (a fourth-inning sacrifice fly) and matched his season high with six innings. The 6-foot-9 right-hander scattered four hits, walked one, struck out five, threw 63 of 97 pitches for strikes and lifted his season record to 7-4. Howard's performance was especially gratifying, because he took the mound Sunday with an 8.50 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) this season at Las Vegas Ballpark.
- Relief pitchers James Naile, Aaron Brown and Ben Bracewell followed Howard, and yielded just one unearned run, two hits and two walks in three innings. Bracewell earned his sixth save with 1 2/3 perfect innings.
- The defense atoned for two errors by turning three double plays.
- On the basepaths, the Aviators were 3-for-3 in stolen bases, as Bechina, Allen and second baseman Max Schuemann each swiped a bag.
- A trio of players - designated hitter Francisco Peña (seventh inning), and Allen and right fielder Luis Barrera (consecutive at-bats in the eighth) - also hit late-inning sacrifice flies.
The latter two runs were significant in two respects: They gave Las Vegas an insurmountable 8-2 lead, and they pushed the Aviators over the six-run threshold for the first time in 24 games.
Also of importance in the victory: The Aviators (33-31 at home) clinched a winning record for the second time in as many seasons at Las Vegas Ballpark, as Monday's series finale against Oklahoma City is also the final home game of 2021.
GAME NOTES: Seven of the nine batters in the Aviators' lineup scored a run. ... Allen (2-for-4, run, RBI) has multiple hits in all four games of the series against the Dodgers, going 10-for-16. He's also 18-for-44 (.409 average) during his 10-game hitting streak with nine runs, seven RBI, six walks and four doubles. Over that 10-game stretch, Allen - who joined Las Vegas from Double-A Midland (Texas) on August 12 - has lifted his Triple-A batting average from .157 to .246. ... Pèrez, who struck out nine times during his 0-for-18 drought, not only leads Triple-A West in homers, but also RBI (88). Surprisingly, of his 31 homers, only 11 have been hit at Las Vegas Ballpark. ... Theroux's homer was his first since being called up from Midland on September 30. He also picked up his first double in the eighth inning. ... Bechina halted an 0-for-7 slump (five strikeouts) with his second-inning homer. ... Sunday marked the first time since August 31 (at Oklahoma City) that Las Vegas hit as many as three homers in a game. ... After compiling 25 runs on 31 hits (including 13 for extra bases) in the first two games of the series, the Dodgers have managed just seven runs and 14 hits (11 singles, two doubles and a triple) in the last two. ... The Aviators are now 6-5 against Las Vegas this season.
TRANSACTION ACTION: As expected, Aviators third baseman Vimael Machín officially earned his third big-league promotion of the season prior to Sunday's game. Machín was called up to the Oakland A's to take the roster spot of veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus, who injured his ankle while scoring the winning run in Oakland's 3-2 victory over Houston on Saturday.
To fill Machín's roster spot in Las Vegas, infielder Zack Gelof was promoted from High-A Stockton (California). Gelof started at third base Sunday and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk, but also committed a throwing error.
Also, with Aviators second baseman Nate Mondou dealing with an injury suffered in Thursday's game against Oklahoma City, infielder Drew Swift was called up Sunday from Low-A Lansing (Michigan).
ON DECK: The Aviators close out their home schedule - and their five-game Triple-A Final Stretch series against Oklahoma City - at 7:05 p.m. Monday. Right-hander Parker Dunshee (1-5, 6.00 ERA) is scheduled to start for Las Vegas and face off against Dodgers righty Yerfy Ramírez (5-3, 4.76).
The game also represents the final Mutt Monday of the season, with dogs welcome on the berm beyond right field. To purchase tickets, visit the team's ticketing page.
Catch every Aviators game throughout the season on Raider Nation Radio 920-AM, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @AviatorsLV. Follow Aviators beat writer Matt Jacob on Twitter @MattRJacob.
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