RENO " The Reno Aces' offense started with a bang and ended with a whimper.
The Aces used two extra-base hits to score a quick run in the first, but managed just three hits the rest of the way en route to a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on Tuesday night before a crowd of 4,339 at Aces Ballpark.
It was the third-straight, one-run decision for the Aces and their second loss in those three games. It also ruined a nice seven-inning effort by Aces pitcher Seth Etherton, who was the victim of two wind-blown home runs.
"They (the Aces) battled and they will do that," Aces manager Brett Butler said after the Aces dropped to 5-7. "They (Sky Sox) kept us at bay. We had five or six hits. At times last week we pounded the ball. They did a good job of keeping us from scoring. We had some opportunities at the end."
In three of the last four innings, the Aces had the tying and/or winning runs on base. Every time the Aces came up empty, as Randy Flores and Franklin Nunez tossed 2.2 innings of scoreless relief for the Sky Sox. Nunez picked up the save.
In the sixth, Luke Carlin took a called third strike with two outs. In the seventh, Reno put runners on first and second with one out. With Etherton due up, Butler went with lefty Alex Romero to pinch-hit. Colorado manager Tom Runnells brought in lefty Randy Flores to face Romero. Butler said he considered bringing switch-hitting Ruben Gotay into the game, but he left Romero in. Romero hit a weak fly ball to left and Watson followed with an equally weak pop-up to short.
After reliever Tom Gordon worked out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the top of the eighth and stranded a runner at third, the Aces were knocking at the door again in the ninth.
Carlin led off the ninth with a walk. Butler had another chance to call for a bunt with Rusty Ryal at the plate, but gave him a chance to hit away. Ryal promptly hit into a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch from Nunez.
"You have to go with your gut feeling at times," Butler said.
Josh Wilson followed with a hot smash down the third-base line and was thrown out by Christian Colonel.
The Aces, who scored 10 runs Monday, looked as if they were headed for another big game as they treated ex-Major Leaguer Josh Fogg rudely in the first.
Brandon Watson hit a double that one-bounced the fence. Trent Oeltjen followed with a deep drive in right-center field, that Carlos Gonzalez was able to run down. Watson moved to third and scored when Josh Whitesell's drive barely cleared Gonzalez's glove near the warning track in center for the first run of the game.
Fogg settled down and retired 15 of the next 16 hitters after the run-scoring triple.
"Every game is like a new snowflake," Butler said. "He (Fogg) was mixing up his pitches real well and keeping hitters off balance."
Meanwhile, Aces starter Seth Etherton, 1-1, cruised through the first four innings, allowing just two singles. He lost his shutout in the fifth when Matt Miller homered into the bullpen in right-center field, tying the game at 1-1.
Reno took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Ryal singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on Chris Roberson's infield out and scored on Wilson's sacrifice fly to right.
Gonzalez slugged a one-out double in the sixth and then ex-Chicago Cub Matt Murton hit a wind-aided homer to make it 3-2.
"Neither (homer) was on a bad pitch," said Etherton, who allowed three runs and seven hits. "The second one wasn't hit as hard as the first one. No way I thought they were going out.
"That's the best I've felt as a whole (for a while). I was much more economical (with my pitches). I was able to get ahead of hitters."