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Las Vegas wins three straight to salvage series split with Salt Lake

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

A spirited close to a six-game series with Salt Lake catapulted Las Vegas to a season-best three-game win streak as it split with its Pacific Coast League Western division rival.

The Aviators dropped the first three games of the series by a combined score of 25-13 before going +13 in the final three games. The all-time series is now deadlocked at 223-223 apiece for the teams.

Outfielder Cody Thomas packed the power at the plate as he racked up three home runs and a dozen RBIs while leading Las Vegas to its victories.

The franchise was also bolstered by three rehab starts in the midst of the six-game span, two of which came from 2022 All-Star Paul Blackburn. The other came from right-hander Drew Rucinski.

This most recent series with the Bees marks the end of a 12-game homestand for the Aviators, where the team went 4-8 after only taking one against the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

Las Vegas will return to the road next week as it prepares to take on the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. That series will begin Tuesday, April 18 in Texas.

Tuesday, L, 11-5

Another blown lead led the Aviators to another loss in this early season, this time by a final score of 11-5 to the Bees.

A spot rehab start for pitcher Paul Blackburn wasn’t enough for Las Vegas as it lost a four-run lead.

Salt Lake didn’t pick up its first hit against Blackburn with two outs in the top of the second inning. The runner would end up stranded after a lineout ended the inning.

Blackburn appeared to wander into trouble after allowing a leadoff single in the third but a double play got him out of the jam. After three scoreless innings of work, Blackburn was pulled from the mound after yielding two hits on 34 pitches, 22 for strikes.

Originally scheduled starter, Colton Eastman, relieved Blackburn but had a streak of bad luck as he gave up seven runs, two of which were earned. In the top of the fifth inning, Eastman filled the bases on a single, walk and hit-by-pitch. All three runners would eventually come around to score with the final one coming around on a grand slam swing as part of a six-run fifth inning for the visitors. That one swing effectively wiped away the lead for Las Vegas.

Salt Lake batted around in the fifth inning.

Eastman (0-2) earned the loss with a final stat line of 2.2 innings pitched, giving up seven runs (two earned) on four hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

That Aviator lead was built behind a four-run third inning where the home team benefited from three straight errors, reaching base on all of them to load them up. All three baserunners came around to score, two of which were plated on a two-run double by left fielder Pablo Reyes.

First baseman Dermis Garcia added two more runs on a single in that same inning. That marked one of his two hits in his five trips to the batter’s box.

Las Vegas wouldn’t have much luck the rest of the way.

Shortstop Tyler Wade singled in the fifth inning before stealing his PCL-leading seventh stolen base. Wade would wind up stranded after three of the next four batters struck out. To compound matters back-to-back two-out walks were stranded an inning later.

Center fielder J.J. Bleday was robbed of a hit in the seventh inning on a diving catch and that effectively zapped the remaining energy out of the Las Vegas Ballpark.

Tuesday's game marked the firs time this season that the Aviators wore their Reyes de Plata uniforms, this time stone white with silver numbering and lettering.

Wednesday, L, 6-3

Las Vegas suffered another home loss as part of this six-game series with Salt Lake, losing, 6-3, from Las Vegas Ballpark.

In addition, the team had its starting pitcher open the game as part of a major league rehab start, this time it was Drew Rucinski.

He opened the game giving up a leadoff single followed by another for a two-on, nobody out situation. Rucinski would get out of the situation unscathed.

An inning later, Rucinski loaded the bases with one out but would only have one run come across to score.

Finally, a leadoff single from the Bees’ Jo Adell ended the night for Rucinski. He’d later be charged with that run after Adell came around to score on a wild pitch from reliever Parker Dunshee with two outs.

Rucinski checked out of the game after working two-plus innings, giving up two runs on six hits with two strikeouts. He was given the loss for his efforts.

That 2-0 lead would soon be doubled after Dunshee yielded a double and two-run home run.

Fellow reliever Colin Peluse had some early success which included striking out the side in the top of the fourth inning. By the end of the fifth inning, he had faced the minimum of six batters.

Peluse wasn’t as successful in the sixth inning after designated hitter Trey Cabbage went deep to start the frame and put Salt Lake up, 5-1. At that point, Cabbage was 3-for-3 with a single, double, home run, RBI and three runs scored. He’d finish the night 4-for-4 with an additional single and hit-by-pitch.

In encore fashion, Adell did the same thing to open the seventh inning en route to this three-run victory.

Catcher Kyle McCann had the only run-driving end that didn’t result in an out with his RBI double in the third inning to put the home team on the board. That marked McCann’s lone hit in four at-bats.

Right fielder Cody Thomas produced a run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning. Finally, shortstop Tyler Wade plated a run on an RBI groundout which pushed the team to its final out.

Thursday, L, 8-5

Two big-time blasts in the third inning sent the Aviators to a fourth straight loss for the second time this season. Most recently, the Bees got the best of them, 8-5, from LVBP.

Las Vegas lost the lead in the third inning after a walk, single and three-run home run cleared the bases for a 4-2 lead. Moments later, Salt Lake would hit its second three-run home run of the inning, pushing the lead to five.

Starting pitcher Jack Cushing (0-2) would issue a walk to the next batter and would be pulled from the mound. His night ended after two-plus innings of work, giving up seven runs (six earned) on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

The home run hits just kept coming as the Bees got another round-tripper in the top of the fourth inning with one out recorded for an 8-3 lead.

Las Vegas pitching combined to cough up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits with 15 strikeouts and seven walks in nine full innings.

Salt Lake sent five or more batters to the plate in five of the nine innings including sending 10 to the plate in the six-run third inning.

Left fielder J.J. Bleday had one of the lone productive days at the plate for the home team including two doubles, one of which drove in the game’s first run for the Aviators. By the end of the night, he went 2-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI, a run scored, a strikeout and a walk.

Bleday also flashed some of the leather in the outfield coming up with a diving catch in the top of the eighth inning to rob Salt Lake of extra bases.

However, Las Vegas just couldn’t get out of its own way as it struck out 12 times and compiled four errors.

Friday, W, 14-4

The season debut for pitcher Mason Miller and powerful display at the plate from outfielder Cody Thomas helped the Aviators put an end to a four-game losing streak while picking up their first win of the series against the Bees, 14-4.

Las Vegas added its second home win of the season in 10 tries while improving to 3-10 on the year.

Miller blazed through the Salt Lake lineup using high velocity on a very low output. He opened the game with four straight strikeouts while turning away the first six batters faced.

By the end of the game, Miller racked up 23 pitches logged over 100 miles per hour.

Miller accomplished the feat of striking out the side yet again in the third inning while retiring the first nine batters of the game.

At that point, he had eight strikeouts, all of which were swinging strikes. His first not swinging strikeout came in the fourth inning and that was a ring up due to an automatic strike.

Ultimately, Miller retired the first 14 batters he faced. He actually struck out Salt Lake’s Jordyn Adams but still allowed his first baserunner on a wild pitch. His 11th strikeout ended the inning and halted the hopes for the Bees’ first run.

While picking up his first career Triple-A win, Miller tossed five shutout innings of hitless ball with 11 strikeouts and zero walks. He did this on 64 pitches, 43 of which were strikes.

Thomas took care of a lot of the heavy-lifting at the plate, going deep twice beginning in the bottom of the fifth inning on a three-run shot that pushed the home team lead to 6-0.

He upped his earlier performance with a grand slam as part of a seven-run eighth inning for his sixth home run of the season. Thomas now has five homers in the last seven games and has scored 10 runs in the last nine games.

His final stat line was two hits in five trips to the plate, both dingers with seven RBIs and two runs scored.

That big eighth inning started with an RBI double from left fielder Trenton Brooks with one out for an 8-2 lead. That was hit second run-producing double of the game with the first coming in the bottom of the second inning to open the game’s scoring.

Brooks went 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored.

First baseman Kevin Cron, shortstop Pablo Reyes and designated hitter Dermis Garcia also drove in runs on hits.

Garcia hit a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs. He now has three home runs on the year.

Saturday, W, 7-5

On Jackie Robinson Day, the Aviators picked up a second consecutive win for the first time this season in front of a second straight sellout crowd, beating the Bees, 7-5. The audience in attendance also crept over the 10,000-fan mark for the first time this season.

Left fielder Trenton Brooks scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning on an RBI walk to second baseman Zack Gelof with the bases loaded. That marked the first of two straight RBI walks.

The game featured four different ties, two of which were broken up involving Brooks. The first came in the fourth inning as he led off the frame with a home run to break a 3-3 tie. Earlier in the second inning, Brooks added an RBI single to put Las Vegas on the board for the first time.

Brooks now has five RBIs in the last two games and he is now 6-for-11 in this series after a 3-for-3 night with two singles, a home run, two RBIs, two runs scored and a hit-by-pitch. This went down as his first career Triple-A three-hit game.

In the fifth inning, a third single on the night from designated hitter Pablo Reyes sparked a play that allowed right fielder Cody Thomas to score on a throwing error from right field.

Thomas now has 13 runs on the year and is tied with fellow outfielder J.J. Bleday for the team lead. Bleday went 1-for-4 with a double, two RBIs, a walk and two strikeouts. He was responsible for the last RBI walk with the bases loaded that scratched across the home team’s final run.

Pitcher Joseph Wieland started his first game in his fifth outing of the year and danced around serious danger in his two innings of work. Wieland worked around a two-on, one out situation with a strikeout and fielder’s choice before only giving up one run in the second after the first two in the inning reached base. During that hectic second inning, Las Vegas was able to throw out two runners at the plate.

Wieland gave up one run on three hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

Reliever Spencer Patton picked up the win in his team debut after earning himself a blown save, the team’s second of the night. Patton pitched two innings, giving up a run on four hits with four strikeouts versus zero walks.

Fellow reliever Garrett Williams added his first save of the year.

Sunday, W, 8-7

A third straight win for Las Vegas secured a series split against Salt Lake after a thrilling 8-7 win from Las Vegas Ballpark.

After not being able to capitalize with runners on-base for the vast majority of the game, the Aviators took advantage of a single and walk to open the bottom of the ninth inning. With one out recorded, the team had the bases loaded.

Third baseman Jordan Diaz tied the game at seven apiece with a two-run single to score right fielder Cody Thomas and second baseman Pablo Reyes. Diaz went 2-for-4 on the night with two singles, two RBIs and a walk.

Shortstop Nick Allen played hero as he scored first baseman Dermis Garcia from third base on a sacrifice bunt in just his second game with the Aviators this season. Allen came into the day without a hit in four trips to the plate but would tally two (a single and a double) on Sunday in four official tries. He also reached on an error in addition to the game-winning sacrifice while scoring two runs.

Prior to the ninth inning, Las Vegas had left 11 runners on base, seven of which were in scoring position. Moreover, the team had gone 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Aviators had the leadoff man reach in six of the nine innings with two coming across to score in the first and nine innings.

The first time the leadoff man was retired came in the sixth inning but the biggest blow in the frame came on a two-run single with two outs by designated hitter Kevin Cron to trim the deficit to 7-5. Cron went 2-for-5 with a single, double, two RBIs and a strikeout. It’s his first multi-hit game this season while recording his first RBIs.

Thomas was the only Aviator to go deep, this time in the first inning to put Las Vegas ahead for the first time. He did so on a three-run home run with two outs. He now has three three-run homers in the last seven games including two in the last three outings.

In this series against Salt Lake, Thomas went 9-for-24 (.375) with three home runs and 12 RBIs. He now has seven home runs on the year to go along with 22 RBIs, which leads the PCL.

The game opened with a second rehab start by pitcher Paul Blackburn in six games. On Tuesday, Blackburn allowed two hits over three innings.

He started this one strong by striking out two of the first three batters he faced in the first inning but would immediately serve up three straight singles, two of which drove in runs. An inning later, he’d get a strikeout and groundout on the board before issuing a single, two-run home run and single to the next three batters.

Blackburn was touched up for four runs on six hits in 2.2 innings of work with three strikeouts and two walks.

Reliever Billy Sullivan (1-0) got the win after pitching a scoreless, hitless ninth inning with two strikeouts and two walks.

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