Reno falls to Chico
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Although it was a familiar story at Peccole Park on Wednesday – some timely hitting and good pitching led to a victory – it was the Chico Outlaws, not the Reno Silver Sox who were able to walk away with the win.
The Outlaws had a four-run fourth inning and were able to ruin a seventh-inning rally by Reno with runs in the eighth and ninth to take a 7-5 decision in front of 1,597 fans.
The win improved the first-place Outlaws’ record to 23-12 in the second half, 45-30 overall, and gave Chico a five-game lead over third-place Reno with five to go, including four in Chico.
Asked what was the difference in Chico’s first victory over the Silver Sox in three games, Outlaws manager Mark Parent kept his answer simple.
“We got some hits,” he said. “Seriously. We put the ball in play and got guys in scoring position. We’ve been leaving guys in scoring position the last week or so.”
Chico belted out 13 hits, including 11 off Reno starter Carlos Chavez (6-5), who took the loss. Chavez gave up six runs in seven-plus innings, including an RBI-single to right fielder Jason Van Meetren, who put the Outlaws up 6-5 with a grounder up the middle to score Mike Mallory.
“Jason’s had a good year all year,” Parent said. “He’s the Charley Hustle of our team. He’s had his ups and downs this year, but he’s had more ups.”
Jason Martinez pitched two innings of relief, allowing two hits and one run – a solo home run to Alex Froloff – which gave Chico its final margin of victory.
On the heels of Monday’s dust-up between Parent and home plate umpire Murph Glover, another player-umpire incident occured. On Monday, Parent and Glover went chest-to-chest after Glover ejected him and infielder Craig Kuzmic, who argued a called third-strike.
Unfortunately for Reno, this one involved newly acquired slugger Demond Smith, who was called out in the third inning on a sacrifice bunt because his foot was out of the batter’s box.
The 33-year-old Smith, who was 2-for-5 Tuesday with a two-run homer, first yelled and then twice bumped home plate umpire Jason Hutchings, who ejected him. Glover came over to get between Smith and Hutchings before Smith went back to the dugout.
Parent and Lancaster disagreed about how important Smith’s ejection was to the game.
“I don’t think that (ejection) hurt (Reno),” Parent said. “One of their good players was out of the lineup. But I’m not one of the biggest fans of umpires around here anyway. I think it’s a sign of inexperience. Last year we had experienced umps. You could argue with them. You had someone you talk to about the plays with. These are high school and JC (junior college) guys.”
“With Demond out of the game, it definitely hurt us,” Lancaster said. “You can’t let the ball get past you and try to force a single. That opened it right up for them.”
Sure enough, in the fourth inning Chico got on a roll. Third baseman Todd Gossage (son of Hall of Fame pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage) singled in Mike Mallory and then Jim Wallace drilled a three-run, no-doubt homer for a 4-0 lead.
Reno was able to rally in the bottom of the inning, as Carlos Rodriguez, who went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI, tripled in James Shanks. Masashi Chikazawa, who went 1-for-2, followed with a sacrifice fly to score Rodriguez to cut the lead to 4-2.
Chico extended the lead to 5-2 in the seventh off an RBI-single by Jesse Kovacs.
Reno would tie the game with a three-run seventh on a Phil Grau RBI-triple, a C.J. Lang groundout that scored Grau and a Rodriguez RBI-double, but Chico’s timely hitting and platoon pitching proved to be the difference.
Reliever George Huguet (4-2) picked up the win for the Outlaws, going only one-third of an inning. Jacob McKinley picked up his first save of the season and pitched two perfect innings.
Chico starter Nick Singleton went six innings, giving up six hits and two runs and Trevor Caughey went two-thirds off an inning, allowing two hits.
Lancaster said he felt that the loss wouldn’t hurt the Silver Sox in the big picture.
“We still have the advantage with momentum,” Lancsaster said. “As many pitchers they had the last three innings, it shows they’re (concerned about taking the second-half championship). Mark did a good job tonight changing pitchers. McKinley got the job done.”
Parent acknowledged the importance of saving his team’s arms.
“Every game is important for us,” Parent said. “Reno has the luxury of having guys that can throw as many innings as they want.”
Lancaster expressed confidence in his team’s performance and how they’ll perform the remainder of the season.
“Our guys did an outstanding job to come back to tie the game like they did,” Lancaster said. “We lost tonight. They’ll bounce back tomorrow. The three new guys (Smith, Rodriguez and Lou Lucca) and their leadership have turned us around. It’s not so much their bats. They talk to the younger guys. That takes a whole lot off my shoulders. We needed leadership in here.
“These guys were in Mexico, which is Triple A. Some were ex-Big Leaguers and have been around. Their service is always available at the conclusion of their playoffs. Having them in the dugout, their presence, they have a knowledge of the game.”
Lancaster is also hoping for the return of catcher Marcus Jensen, the team leader in homers and RBI. Jensen has been on the disabled list with an injured palm on his catching hand since Aug. 14. According to Lancaster, Jensen has a blood clot and a calcium buildup in the hand from catching.
“We’re hoping he’s day to day,” Lancaster said of Jensen’s return. “When he tells me he’s ready, he’ll be in there. He’s on medication, trying to dissolve (the clot). He can grip the bat and swing in batting practice. We’d like for it to come along faster, but you have to take your time with it.”
In its final regular season home game today at 6:35, Reno will start Chris Marini (6-4, with a 4.56 earned run average). Chico, hoping to split the four-game series before returning to face the Sox in another four-game set, will counter with Phil Springman (7-1, 2.69 ERA).
Notes: With the Toronto Blue Jays purchasing Kuzmic’s contract, Chico was able to acquire third baseman Henry Calderon from the Yuma Scorpions in exchange for a player to be named later. Although the trade deadline expired on Aug. 14, if a player is injured or has his contract sold, his team can replace him…Silver Sox Director of Corporate Sales Curt Jacey said Wednesday that if Chico wins the second-half title, Reno will benefit from a 2-2-1 playoff format. If second-place Fullerton wins, Fullerton will host the final three games of the playoffs…Reno hosts the first two Golden Baseball League playoff games Aug. 30-31.