Silver Sox beat Outlaws again
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – When Reno Silver Sox manager Les Lancaster decided to add and subtract from his team on Aug. 14, he invested in some older veterans like Demond Wilson, Carlos Rodriguez and Lou Lucca.
Tuesday at Peccole Park, those investments began to pay dividends as third-place Reno took a 7-3 victory over Golden Baseball League leader Chico in front of 1,467 fans.
With six games to go until it hosts the first two games of the GBL playoffs, first-half champion Reno cut the Outlaws’ lead to four games, improving to 18-16 in the second half, 43-31 overall.
The Silver Sox produced three home runs, including one each from Wilson and Rodriguez, and dropped Chico to 22-12, 44-30.
“One thing we were lacking (before the moves) was offense,” Lancaster said. “These three guys are going to produce. That and bring leadership.”
Another fairly recent acquisition – Masashi Chikazawa – crushed a mammoth two-run homer well over 400 feet and over the left-center field wall to put the Sox up 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning.
It was Chikazawa’s only hit of the night – he went 1-for-4 – but it proved that the latest incarnation of the Silver Sox could be formidable as they make their stretch run and prepare for post-season play.
“This could be the team we face off against next week,” Lancaster said of Chico. “We’ll take any momentum we can get. We’ve added new guys offensively to play for us. They’re taking shape. This offense will be able to compete in the playoffs. Combined with our pitching we’ll be OK.”
Although Lucca went hitless in four at-bats, the 29-year-old Rodriguez finished 3-for-4, hitting an RBI-double in the fifth that made it 2-1 and a solo homer to left in the seventh that helped quell a Chico rally and gave the Sox a 5-3 lead.
Former Silver Sox member Hideki Nagasaka (5-2 for Chico, 6-2 overall) took the loss for the Outlaws, giving up five runs (four earned), seven hits and five walks in 6 1/3 innings. He also struck out five before surrendering Rodriguez’s second blast of the season and was relieved by Jacob McKinley and Aaron Taylor.
Taylor allowed only one hit, but it was a two-run homer to the 33-year-old Smith, who took him out to dead center.
Smith was pleased with the shot but upset at his fifth-inning misplay, when a Jason Matteucci shot sailed over his head in center.
“(The home run) was OK, but I should’ve caught that ball,” Smith said. “I gotta get my defense together. That comes with more at-bats and games. I’m an old man. It takes a little while to get going.”
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Smith batted .353 and had six homers and 27 RBI for the Mexican League’s Union Laguna Cotton Pickers this season. Rather than give himself any credit for helping the team coalesce, Smith took the high road and said the Sox were already a good team when he came.
“The pitching’s unbelievable,” he said. “With the pitching and defense, we’ll be all right. Today was one of those good times. Everybody is good. I’m used to being in towns where the pitching is suspect. I’ve gotta get it together for them.”
Smith said he was happy that his two sons – Christian (12) and D.J. (6) – could be around him and share part of his experience. Both were staying close to Smith as he sat by his locker after the game.
“It’s good to give them a taste of it,” said Smith, who added that a nagging quadriceps injury is coming along. “That way, when they come along it will be easier for them and they’ll know what to expect.”
Smith scored on a single by C.J. Lang and a throwing error from first to third to give the Sox a 1-0 lead in the third.
A Jason Van Meetren sacrifice fly tied it 1-1 in the fifth and the Outlaws also got an RBI-single by Alex Froloff in the sixth and Desi Wilson was able to score on a Todd Gossage fielder’s choice to cut the lead to 4-3 in the seventh.
But Reno’s offense and pitching staff were able to keep things under control.
Starter James Johnson (3-3) picked up the win, giving up two runs and spreading out six hits and four walks in six innings. Reliever Mike McTamney gave up one run and one hit in two innings and closer Scott Schneider pitched a shutout ninth.
“Johnson pitched good tonight,” Lancaster said. “One thing we’re working on is his pitch count. He threw 105 pitches tonight. He gets ahead and tries for the strikeout. McTamney came in and did a great job for two innings, then Schneider came in and nailed it down for us.”
Reno has taken the first two games of its final regular-season four-game homestand and will play the Outlaws four more in Chico before hosting the first two of the five-game GBL playoffs Aug. 30-31 at Peccole Park.
Tonight Reno will start Carlos Chavez (6-4, with a 5.92 earned run average) against Chico’s Nick Singleton (7-5, 2.86). The game begins at 6:35 p.m. The gates open at 5:35.
Note: Outlaws infielder Craig Kuzmic was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays one night after being ejected by home plate umpire Murph Glover on Monday. Kuzmic will play for the Jay’s Double-A affiliate.
Outlaws manager Mark Parent and Glover went chest-to-chest for several minutes on Monday. Glover ejected Parent after he came out to argue Kuzmic’s ejection after he argued his strikeout. Glover and Parent both were in action Tuesday, but the umpires had yet to turn over to the GBL their Monday game reports. Action could still be taken.