Reyes de Plata Return Home, Pound Albuquerque 9-2
It would be inaccurate to say Fran Riordan was angry, surly or even disgruntled prior to Tuesday's game against the Albuquerque Isotopes. But it also would be inaccurate to say the Aviators' manager was in the most chipper of moods.
Rather, Riordan's pregame demeanor could best be described as exasperated - and not just because he and his team had to catch a 3:30 a.m. flight home from Salt Lake City following a five-game road trip. No, his exasperation had more to do with the fact the Aviators concluded that road trip with four consecutive losses to the Salt Lake Bees, which was preceded by a seven-game stretch in which Las Vegas alternated wins and losses.
"We're just not playing well in any aspect of the game right now," Riordan said before Tuesday's game at Las Vegas Ballpark. "We're not getting great pitching. We're not getting timely situational hitting. We're striking out a lot. And the results show that. ... But we'll get out of it."
Sure enough, a couple of hours later, the Aviators (25-21) took the field as their alter ego - the Reyes de Plata (Silver Kings) - and put together the complete game their manager was looking for, and the result was a 9-2 victory over the Isotopes before a crowd of 8,692.
Starting pitcher Jack Buchanan and two relievers held Albuquerque (23-23) in check, and the offense pounded out 14 hits, with Dustin Fowler leading the attack by going 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. That said, the performance in the opener of a four-game homestand was hardly flawless, as the Reyes de Plata committed two errors, left 12 runners on base, finished 5-for-20 with runners in scoring position and allowed the Isotopes to collect 11 hits, including five for extra bases.
But on an unseasonably cool and rainy night, the good far outweighed the bad for the home team. And that was especially true for Buchanan, who put together his best outing in nearly six weeks.
After posting a 9.00 ERA over his previous four starts in which he surrendered 20 runs (19 earned) on 31 hits over 19 innings, Buchanan took the ball Tuesday and attacked the strike zone early and often. The right-hander ended up yielding two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks over five innings while striking out four, including the final two batters he faced with the tying run on second base.
Although Buchanan (3-1) had just one clean inning (the first) and allowed five two-out baserunners (on four hits and a walk), he mitigated the damage by executing big pitches in pressure situations. For instance, after allowing Albuquerque to tie the game at 1-1 in the second inning on two walks and a double, he stranded runners on second and third by getting pop out to shortstop to end the inning.
Buchanan wasn't the only Las Vegas pitcher who worked out of multiple jams. His replacement, Ryan Dull, also stranded runners on second and third in both the sixth and seventh innings. In all, Albuquerque left nine runners on base through seven innings, including eight in scoring position.
Early on, the Reyes de Plata had similar issues against Isotopes starter Tim Melville (2-1). After Nick Martini and Fowler singled to start the bottom of the first, Jorge Mateo drove home Martini on a sacrifice fly to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead, the team's first in 30 innings. But after another single, a foul out and a hit batter, Sheldon Neuse left the bases loaded when he grounded out.
After the Isotopes tied it in the top of the second, the Reyes de Plata filled the bases again on an error, single and another hit batter, but again Melville got out of it, this time on Seth Brown's flied out. However, that would prove to be the end of the right-hander's luck.
With two outs in the fourth, Fowler lined a two-run homer (his fifth of the season) over the right-field fence to put Las Vegas ahead 3-2. After that lead grew to 5-2 on RBI singles by Fowler and Mateo in the sixth, the Reyes de Plata blew the game open in the seventh when they sent nine men to plate and scored four times. Mark Payton (two-run double) delivered the big hit in an inning when each of the first four batters reached base and scored.
Closer Brian Schillter took over for Dull in the eighth and finished off the victory, scattering two hits and a walk in his two innings of work. In all, the Reyes de Plata outscored the Isotopes 8-0 over the final 5½ innings - an accomplishment that nobody enjoyed more than their manager.
Game Notes: Fowler was one of six Las Vegas batters to record multiple hits. The others were Martini (2-for-5, run, RBI), Mateo (2-for-3, 2 RBI), Cameron Rupp (2-for-3, run, walk), Franklin Barreto (2-for-5, 3 runs) and Payton (2-for-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI). ... Barreto reached base in each of his first four plate appearances on two errors and two singles. ... Las Vegas is now 3-0 this season when playing as the Reyes de Plata, which is part of Minor League Baseball's season-long Copa de la Diversión ("Fun Cup") initiative.
On Deck: Las Vegas and Albuquerque continue their four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. The Aviators will hand the ball to southpaw Tyler Alexander (1-3, 6.88 ERA), while the Isotopes will counter with right-hander Jeff Hoffman (3-3, 7.57). ... Promotions for the remainder of series include Wag Your Tail Wednesdays/Bark on the Berm (Wednesday), $2 Beer Night (Thursday) and Military Appreciation Night followed by a postgame fireworks show (Friday).
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