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Las Vegas moving up in standings after having gone more than month without series loss

Las Vegas pitcher Aaron Brooks hurls a pitch toward home plate from inside Las Vegas Ballpark. Photo Credit: Terrel Emerson

A 30-plus day stretch of plus-.500 baseball has the Las Vegas Aviators back in early season contention following a slow start to the new year.

Las Vegas is three games over .500 (14-11) over the last month of the season while not having lost a series in the process. In four series played, the team won two and split the other two.

“The vibes are better,” manager Fran Riordan said. “The clubhouse atmosphere is better, the music is a little bit louder, a little bit better tasting food – everything's better when you’re winning. It helps not only the culture within the clubhouse but it helps keep guys motivated and it helps guys be winning players.”

After a 2-6 start to the new campaign, the Aviators found themselves sitting as bottom dwellers in the Pacific Coast League West standings. Due to the most recent string of good play, the club has ascended to the sixth spot in the entire PCL, vaulting the team right into the thick of things.

In addition, Las Vegas is presently five games behind the top spot in the West and already owns a series win over the second place team, Tacoma, and split a six-game series with first-place Sacramento.

“This club has a really good manager that likes to win,” catcher Yohel Pozo said. “He’s going to make the best lineup possible against the pitcher that’s pitching that day. I feel like this team, especially the young players, want to win. Everyday we come to the field to win.

“Some teams are selfish and they just want to [get] their numbers and that’s it. This team, we care about winning.”

Aviators catcher Yohel Pozo conducts an interview ahead of a 7:05 p.m. game against the Aces. Photo Credit: Deja Lacey

Re-launching last year, the minor league regular season is now split into two halves with a single winner coming out of each the PCL and International League. After resetting around all-star break time, the season “restarts” with the same finish in mind.

Assuming both winners of the respective halves of the season will meet in the Triple-A playoffs for a chance to advance to the Triple-A Championship Series. If a team were to win both halves of its conference’s season, it would automatically punch its ticket into the title series.

“Every game is important,” Riordan said. “Especially when you’re talking about the PCL and playing in halves, the winner of the first half makes the playoffs. Every game is important for development, for production and to get these guys where they want to be.”

One way the team can deposit more wins into the bank during the early part of the year would be to correct its mistakes that have led to a winless record in series openers. To this point last season, the Aviators held a 2-4 record. In 2024, the franchise has yet to win an opener in six tries.

Las Vegas has been outscored 66-22 in those games and have given up double-digit runs in five of those six outings.

“We haven’t gotten good starts,” Riordan said. “When you don’t get good starts and you’re playing behind and the bullpen has to cover a lot of innings. Games can get away from you in the PCL really quick and I think we’ve seen that in the opening game of the series.”

Despite the slow start to series, the Aviators have closed them out just fine, going a perfect 4-0 in April season finales. In addition, the team has started the month of May with a series finale win over their intra-state rivals the Reno Aces.

“It’s a small sample-size,” Riordan said. “But if you take day games with [games] facing Cy Young Award winners, we’re 6-0 so that’s pretty good. I don’t know what the key to success so far this season in day games has been, normally those things tend to balance out depending on the quality of your team.”

One common denominator in those wins are that they all happen to be day games, something that Las Vegas is undefeated in so far this season.

“We do what we do normally everyday,” Pozo said. “I think a lot of teams don’t do it but we get here early and we [do] a small workout everytime we come to the field. Maybe that makes us feel better on the field. If you see, we don’t get hurt too much on this team because the trainers take care of us a lot.”

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