Peter O'Brien hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning and three Reno relievers were able to stave off a late rally, giving the Aces a narrow 4-3 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers Tuesday night at Cheney Stadium.
Fresh off of a first-ever sweep of Sacramento, Reno (32-39) won their fifth straight game and sixth in their last seven with another dynamite pitching performance and some late, clutch hitting.
Making his second start in less than a week against Tacoma (35-37), Aces' right-hander Aaron Blair more than made up for a less-than-stellar Triple-A debut. Last Wednesday, Blair yielded a career-high eight earned runs on seven hits – including two homers – in just four innings of a 9-6 loss to the Rainiers at Aces Ballpark.
Tuesday night's affair at Cheney Stadium proved to be much different.
Blair's only blemish on the night came on a hanging curveball in the second which Tacoma's Carlos Rivero deposited over the left-field fence. The 23-year-old went on to throw 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball with four walks and six strikeouts.
The Aces' lineup, featuring newcomers Brandon Drury and Óscar Hernández, struggled through the first five-plus frames against Rainiers' righty Justin Germano. But with nobody on and two outs in the sixth, three straight reached, giving the Aces their first scoring threat of the game. Nick Evans singled, Jamie Romak doubled and Mike Freeman walked, loading the bases for Peter O'Brien.
And the sweet-swinging slugger delivered.
O'Brien crushed a grand slam to left – his 15th homer of the season – giving the Aces a 4-1 lead. The big swing gave O'Brien 57 RBI on the season, third-most in the Pacific Coast League. The homer also moved him into a tie with Sacramento's Adam Duvall for most in the PCL.
Blair (1-1) worked a quick 1-2-3 sixth before a pair of two-out walks pushed his pitch count to 118, knocking him out of the game in the seventh. Seth Simmons inherited the jam and struck out Zach Shank to escape, keeping the Aces in front by three.
J.C. Ramirez ran into trouble in the home half of the eighth, allowing two earned runs on three hits and one walk, but Kaleb Fleck retired Patrick Kivlehan on a groundout to end the threat, leaving the tying run at second base. Fleck then worked a scoreless ninth for his fourth save in the month of June.
Germano (6-3) was tagged with the loss, despite allowing just one hit through the first five innings. He walked three and struck out seven.
Evans' two-out single in the sixth extended his on-base streak to 21 games, the fourth-highest active streak in the PCL.
The Aces continue their three-game set at Tacoma Wednesday night. Reno has not yet named a starter, while Tacoma will send right-hander Sam Gaviglio (7-5, 4.29) to the bump. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.