RENO — August has been an unkind month for the Reno Aces.
Runs have been tough to come by. In the past 10 games, Reno has scored just 26 runs, collected 69 hits and is hitting a dismal .222.
Those figures have led to a 2-8 month thus far, including a 4-3 setback to Salt Lake Tuesday night before a crowd of 3,459 at Greater Nevada Field.
The loss dropped the Aces to 7.5 games behind league-leading Tacoma with 26 games left in the season. It’s a huge deficit to be sure, and the largest since May 22.
“I know the number looks big,” Aces manager Phil Nevin said. “We have nine games left against Tacoma which is the team in front of us. They are due to hit a little lull.
“We’ve got to score runs. Our team can hit. We are pitching well enough to win. Our offense has hit a little glitch right now. We will come out of it. Our pitching has given us a chance to win every game this (home and home) series even the one that kind of got away from us (9-1 loss). It’s been a while since we hit a homer, and we are a team that hits homers.”
As was the case Monday, the Aces got a 2-0 lead in the first against Troy Scribner and then the offense went AWOL, going six scoreless innings before tacking on a final run in the eighth.
In the first, Ildemaro Vargas singled to center and scored on Mitch Haniger’s one-out triple off the fence in right-centerfield. Kyle Jensen grounded to short, scoring Haniger.
Jensen became the third player in franchise history to drive in 100 runs, joining Peter O’Brien (107) and Jamie Romak (100), both of whom hit the century mark in 2015.
Salt Lake got on the board in the third against Reno starter Shelby Miller thanks to a questionable call at first base and a Haniger error, his second in as many games.
With Anthony Bemboom aboard via a single, Brendan Ryan lined a shot off Miller’s glove. Miller appeared to throw Ryan out, but first-base umpire Bryan Fields called Ryan safe.
With runners at first and second, Reno catcher Dan Rohlfing picked off Bemboom at second for the first out. Ryan moved up to second on the play and scored when Haniger bobbled Daniel Nava’s single to right field. Nava went 3-for-4 on the day.
Salt Lake caught up with Miller in the fifth, scoring three times on four hits to take a 4-2 lead.
Bemboom walked with one out, advanced to third on Ryan’s double and both scored on Rafael Ortega’s single to center, which gave the Bees a 3-2 lead. Daniel Nava singled home what proved to be the game-winning run.
The loss was Miller’s first in four decisions.
“He was good,” Nevin said. “He had one inning where he elevated (his pitches) a little bit. The other five innings he kept the ball down and was very aggressive.”
Scribner left after six innings in favor of Geoff Broussard, who was charged with Reno’s final run in the eighth.
Vargas singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Jensen’s fielder’s choice.
Reno got the tying run on first in the ninth, but Rohlfing hit into a game-ending double play.
The three-game series concludes tonight with lefty Edwin Escobar (5-3, 4.54) facing Kyle McGowin (5-9, 6.26) at 7:05 p.m. Matt Buschman (7-8, 5.30) starts the series opener against Nashville on Friday (5:05 p.m.) against Daniel Mengden (5-1, 1.46). On Saturday, also at 5:05, Reno’s Anthony Banda (4-3, 4.27) opposes Raul Alcantra (3-0, 0.70) and Reno’s Matt Koch (0-2, 2.51) opposes Chris Jensen (2-5, 4.23) on Sunday at 4:35 p.m.
Ed Lucas now has a four-game hit streak (7-for-13), while Jack Reinheimer (2-for-7), Kyle Jensen (2-for-8) and Todd Glaesman (2-for-7) had their two-game hit streaks snapped.
BRINGING THE HEAT
Salt Lake’s Kenyan Middleton, who retired all six hitters he faced on Monday, reached 102 miles per hour with one of his pitches. Only three pitchers have reached 100 miles per hour this year — Aroldis Chapman, Mauricio Cabrera and Arquimedes Caminero.
Thursday is a league-wide off day for the Pacific Coast League, one of five during the season not including the all-star break.