How cold was it in Reno on Tuesday? So cold that after Yasmany Tomas blasted a home run, he ran as fast as he could around the bases and kept sprinting through a gauntlet of congratulating players across the dugout and in exhaustion dropped into a chair in front of a giant gas heater.
Freezing on the field, the Aces are hot on the scoreboard. Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Las Vegas is their fifth in six games. After a slow start this season, the Aces have moved to just 2.5 games behind first-place Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern division.
The season-long intrastate series between the top minor league affiliates of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A’s is dubbed The Silver State Diamond Challenge. On Monday, Las Vegas took the season opener, and early in Tuesday’s game it looked like it might have its way again with Reno.
The Aviators led 3-0 after hitting leadoff triples in the first three innings. But in the bottom of the third came the cold and in an instant the base at the hot corner of the diamond began to look like an oversized ice cube.
The Aces played better in the snow. As soon as rain droplets began to freeze, center fielder Tim Locastro tripled to score catcher Alberto Rosario, who easily beat the throw but slid anyway. Then he rolled over onto his stomach and laid there for a while. It was a day for theatrics, an 11 a.m. matinee in a blizzard.
In the fourth, Tomas was clearly locked in on left-handed pitcher Tyler Alexander. The noise of the ball on bat sounded like a rocket blast and it went foul, and it barely missed leaping third-base coach and manager Rick Rodriquez. The next pitch Tomas hit over the right-field fence and the race to the dugout heater was on.
Juniel Querecuto, who until Monday had always played in the infield, was in the outfield for the second-straight day. He hit what resulted in a game-winning, two-run homer off the scoreboard in left.
Working deliberately, to the chagrin of some chilly fans, Alex Young pitched three shutout innings to get the win. The Aces all-time save leader Jimmie Sherfy picked up his fourth of the season, leaving runners at first and third in the ninth.
For schoolchildren, what could be better than a snow day? How about a snow day with baseball? It was Rounds Bakery Education Day, which explains the early start. But when the school buses came to retrieve the students, the game was only more than half over. Many more fans were chased off by the weather. The luxury suites looked packed, but the seats were vast sections of emptiness.
The sound that filled Greater Nevada Field was the roar of the gas heaters, not the crowd.
A couple of youngsters remained. Charles and Andrew Madole were at the game with their mother, Hallie, who said, “The weather is better than work!” The boys had accumulated three baseballs. Then a foul went into the seats on the first base side and as if hunting for an Easter egg, Charles went in search of baseball No. 4.
“You get a ball; you get a ball. It’s like Oprah only it’s baseball,” Hallie said.
On deck: The series continues at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday when Reno’s Taylor Clarke faces Daniel Mengden. Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson, who hit 29 home runs in 2018, is expected to play for Las Vegas. He is recovering from a hand injury.
— Tim Parsons