Rare meeting with Space Cowboys gives Aviators chance at fourth straight series win
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
The recent string of series wins is over for the Las Vegas Aviators following losing four of six to the Sugar Land Space Cowboys this past week.
Over the last two years, Las Vegas is 4-11 against Sugar Land including a 2-7 mark this season.
Since July, the Aviators are 19-30 and now sit with an 61-62 overall record, still good for second place in the Pacific Coast League West. The team has a -78 run differential, the worst in the division.
Las Vegas will have a chance to put a dent in that seven game difference between itself and the first place Reno Aces as the team prepares to head up north for six games.
The Aviators will travel to Reno for that six-game series with the Aces that is set to begin Tuesday, Aug. 30.
First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.
Tuesday, L, 23-8
For the 24th time this season, the Aviators allowed 10 or more runs en route to the team’s largest loss of the season in game one of six against the Space Cowboys.
Las Vegas was lit up for 12 runs in two innings on the way to a 23-8 loss to Sugar Land. The Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate have taken all four meetings against Vegas this season.
The first five batters of the third inning reached as the fourth batter of the frame blasted a grand slam to give Sugar Land a 5-3 lead.
Not long after, starting pitcher Hogan Harris was relieved of his duties after serving up seven runs on four hits in just 2 ⅓ innings of work with six strikeouts and three walks. He pounded the strike zone all night, picking up five strikeouts through the first six outs of the game.
Even with Harris out of the game, more trouble followed in the fourth inning. In fact, the Space Cowboys hit two home runs in the fourth inning as eight batters came to the plate, five of which scored. Seven scored in the third inning while Sugar Land sent 11 hitters to the box.
Overall, Las Vegas gave up nine Sugar Land home runs on the night including a trio to catcher Korey Lee who went deep in the third, fourth and sixth innings. Lee and teammate Lewis Brinson combined to go 6-for-10 with a single, five home runs, 12 RBI, seven runs scored, two walks and three strikeouts.
The Space Cowboys scored three or more runs in four straight innings and matched a season-high 19 runs for an Aviator opponent in the sixth inning.
On the other hand, Las Vegas batting had to deal with the Triple-A leader in ERA and strikeouts, Sugar Land’s Hunter Brown.
The Aviators would score four runs off Brown, three of which were earned. The team’s biggest hit of the night came off the bat of shortstop Kevin Smith, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to cut the home team deficit to four runs.
Smith went 1-for-4 with a home run, two RBI, a run scored and a strikeout.
Las Vegas batted around in the ninth inning and even added four runs to its final run total but the game was well out of reach.
Wednesday, W, 9-3
The Aviators didn’t miss a chance to get back to above .500 with a, 9-3, win over the Space Cowboys. It marked Las Vegas’ first win against Sugar Land this season.
Second baseman Nate Mondou mounted all the offense Las Vegas needed, accounting for two of the team’s first four Aviator hits.
It was Mondou who first put the team on the board with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the deficit to one. After his 2-for-4 night, Mondou is now 4-for-7 with two singles, two home runs, five RBI, three runs scored and a strikeout through two games this series.
Mondou struck again in the bottom of the sixth after his second two-run home run of the night, tallying his sixth longball of the year. That home run trot gave the Aviators their first lead of the night, a lead they never relinquished.
The knockout punch came in the form of a three-run home run from center fielder Cristian Pache to push the lead to six as part of nine unanswered runs by the home team.
Shortstop Kevin Smith also recorded an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning for an insurance run, extending his hitting streak to five games. He now has three RBI through the first two games of this series.
Designated hitter Cody Thomas, playing in his first game of 2022, picked up his first hit of the season in the eighth inning along with his first RBI of the year.
Starting pitcher Ken Waldichuk set the tone early after having to work around a leadoff home run on the second pitch of the game.
After settling down, Waldichuk bounced back to record three straight strikeouts in the second inning after a leadoff single. Additionally, he struck out the side in the third inning as part of seven straight strikeouts that spanned from the second inning to the fourth.
Waldichuk (2-4, 3.38 ERA) left the game after working five innings, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out nine and walking one. This season, he has 91 strikeouts and 26 walks.
As a team, Las Vegas pitching produced 15 strikeouts. This performance comes just one night after turning in 17 strikeouts in a losing effort Tuesday night.
Reliever Aaron Brown got the win to improve to 4-3 this season after pitching two innings of shutout ball, giving up just one hit while striking out four.
Fellow reliever Domingo Tapia worked the final two innings of the game, picking up two strikeouts while shutting down the Sugar Land offense. He picked up his fourth save of the year for his efforts.
Thursday, L, 11-6
Las Vegas has now lost five of the six meetings against Sugar Land with three more meetings on the ledger after dropping Thursday’s matchup, 11-6. Now the team falls back to .500 on the season with 30 more games to play this season.
The Aviators had trouble closing innings as starting pitcher Collin Wiles didn’t reach five innings for just the third time this season.
Wiles gave up a leadoff home run to open the second inning to open the scoring on the day. Later in the game, he gave up back-to-back jacks to open the fourth inning as well.
Those three runs were the only runs not scored with two outs in the inning by the Space Cowboys.
Four more runs scored in the top of the second inning behind three RBI singles for a 5-0 lead for the road team.
Sugar Land scored two-out runs in the third, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. In fact, the eight inning run was the team’s fourth longball on the night.
Wiles (8-10, 5.43 ERA) went 3.1 innings, giving up eight runs on 13 hits while striking out four and walking one. Only four of those eight runs were earned.
Las Vegas had moments on offense but was never able to overcome its early deficit.
RIght fielder Mickey McDonald started things out with an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning. In the sixth inning, his flyout plated another run. Since returning to Triple-A, McDonald is 4-for-9 with three singles, a double, two RBI, a run scored, a walk and three strikeouts.
The Aviators scored three runs in the sixth inning, capped off by run-driving hits from first baseman Dalton Kelly and shortstop Kevin Smith. The former hit an RBI triple while the latter knocked in a run on an RBI single.
Smith now has a six-game hitting streak after a 1-for-3 night with a single, RBI, run scored, a walk and strikeout.
Earlier in the game, Smith scored on an RBI sacrifice fly from second baseman Nate Mondou, who had a big night himself.
Mondou led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a solo home run to cut the deficit to four for the second time. That was the closest Las Vegas would get as Mondou went 1-for-3 with a home run, two RBI and a run scored. Through three games this series, he went 5-for-9 with two singles, three homers, seven RBI, four runs scored, a walk and two walks.
Even with the offensive success in moments, the Aviators missed several other opportunities to plate runs.
With two-on and two outs, Las Vegas was only able to push across one run. The team did produce back-to-back hits but no runs scored after back-to-back runners were thrown out at the plate.
Moreover, the Aviators missed chances in the fifth inning with two runners on and one out and again in the bottom of the seventh after tallying three straight strikeouts after Mondou’s home run.
Five of the next six batters would strike out for Las Vegas as the team only compiled one hit the remainder of the game.
Friday, L, 8-3
Las Vegas was burned by all eight Sugar Land runs in two early innings, providing an insurmountable lead for the home team. The loss guarantees at least a series split for the Aviators and snaps three straight series wins for the team.
The Space Cowboys had three straight reach to open the top of the second inning due to a hit-by-pitch, single and then a three-run home run to erase an early 1-0 Aviator lead.
An inning later, three more consecutive batters would reach on a single, RBI double and hit-by-pitch for a 4-1 Sugar Land lead.
With that, starting pitcher Parker Dunshee was yanked after working 2.1 innings, giving up six runs on four hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Dunshee is now 5-11 on the year after the loss with a 8.21 ERA.
Four more runs came around to score on an RBI double, two-run single and RBI single, pushing the visiting lead to seven runs.
Las Vegas just missed too many opportunities to push runs across the board despite having some early success.
Shortstop Kevin Smith led off the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff double before being brought around on a two-out RBI single from designated hitter Jordan Diaz to take a 1-0 lead. The Aviators left the bases loaded at the end of the frame.
Las Vegas missed chances with two runners on and one out in the second and fourth innings. The team even missed a golden opportunity with two runners on and nobody out in the fifth inning.
As a team, the Aviators went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Left fielder Cody Thomas hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth for the second Las Vegas run of the night. That marked his first home run in his second game back after returning from an Achilles injury.
Thomas went 2-for-4 with a double, home run, RBI and run scored.
An inning later, third baseman Matt Davidson drove in the team’s final run on an RBI double.
Saturday, W, 15-14
Down six heading into the ninth inning, Las Vegas scored seven runs coming away with a walkoff win in stunning fashion, winning 15-14, over Sugar Land.
The ninth inning started with two runners on and nobody out before the Aviators turned in four straight hits with one out, three of which produced runs.
Center fielder Mickey McDonald got things going with a two-run double followed by an RBI double from second baseman Jordan Diaz. That was the cap on a tremendous night from Diaz.
Third baseman Matt Davidson knocked in a run on the team’s third RBI double of the inning to cut the deficit to two. Earlier in the game, Davidson drove in a run on a single in the second inning.
With two outs in the inning, designated hitter Cody Thomas went first pitch swinging for a three-run double that cleared the bases for the fourth and final lead change. Thomas has played in three games since returning from injury and is now batting .308 this season with two doubles, a home run, five RBI and three runs.
That game-winning double was the only hit on the night for Thomas after striking out in his four previous at-bats.
The only reason Las Vegas was in that position was because of a forgettable two inning stretch where the bullpen was taxed heavily.
It began with reliever Garrett Acton after he gave up a leadoff home run to start the seventh inning. The Space Cowboys weren’t done yet as the team turned in a two-run single and three-run home run pushing Acton out of the game.
His relief, Sam Selman, made it out of the inning but ran into trouble in the eighth inning when three runs scored on a double. That knocked Selman out of the game in favor of reliever Aaron Brown who gave up a two-run home run on the first pitch he threw.
While Brown’s blunder pushed the deficit to the largest of the game for Las Vegas at six runs. However, the team was able to build a lead as large as five.
Five straight batters reached with one out in the first inning. The first hit of the bunch was the aforementioned Diaz’s first Triple-A home run to put the home team on the scoreboard.
Catcher Beau Taylor tied the game on an RBI double before shortstop Kevin Smith’s RBI single gave the Aviators their first lead of the game.
Diaz also hit an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning for a five-run home lead on his way to a 4-for-6 night with two singles, a double, home run, three RBI and two runs scored.
Sunday, L, 12-1
Las Vegas missed a golden opportunity to gain a game in the PCL West standings but fell short after being dominated, 12-1, by Sugar Land in the series finale.
The Aviators were nearly shutout during the Sunday finale, going nearly five innings without a hit at one point.
An early chance at a run didn’t come to pass after Las Vegas were able to get two runners on with one out in the bottom of the first inning. The team would be retired via a strikeout and a groundout to be turned away without a run.
For the second time this series (first time out of the bullpen) the team saw the league’s top strikeout and ERA man in Hunter Brown, who came in and shut the Aviators down.
His 3.1 innings of work saw Las Vegas go hitless while he compiled four strikeouts while walking two. This series, he worked 8.1 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits with eight strikeouts and two walks with a 2-0 record.
It wasn’t until the seventh inning when the Aviators were able to scratch across their third hit of the game. An inning later, the team scored its first run of the game on an RBI groundout from third baseman Jordan Diaz.
Las Vegas starting pitcher Hogan Harris had an efficient three innings of work and even recorded six strikeouts in the first seven outs of the ballgame. His only hiccup was a run that was scored in the top of the second inning off a passed ball by catcher William Simoneit.
Harris (0-2, 6.75 ERA) picked up the loss after allowing that unearned run on two hits in three innings pitched while striking out six and walking two.
The Space Cowboys’ most productive inning came in the fourth inning when the team sent 12 batters to the plate, scoring seven in the process.
In that inning, the Aviators walked four batters, two of which came around to score. That was a trend on the night as the Aviators walked nine batters in the game, five came across to score.
Sugar Land scored four more runs in the sixth inning off reliever Domingo Tapia, all of which were unearned after a second throwing error from the aforementioned Diaz.