Reno Cruises To Triple-A Title

DURHAM, N.C.—For at least one night the Reno Aces proved that their offensive prowess was no Pacific Coast League mirage. They defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox 10-3 in the Triple-A National Championship in front of an announced 8,601 fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Sept. 18.

Led by center fielder A.J. Pollock, second baseman Tyler Kuhn and right fielder Brent Clevlen, the PCL champions pounded out 13 hits and knocked Pawtucket starter Nelson Figueroa out of the game after two innings. The Aces averaged a league-best 5.9 runs per game during the regular season.

"Patience," Reno manager Brett Butler said of his team's gameplan. "It was get your pitch, be patient and let's try to get to him (Figueroa) early. They kept pounding and they kept pressing."

Pollock led off the bottom half of the first inning with a triple to deep right-center field. Kuhn followed with an RBI single to left field. Figueroa nearly escaped further damage by striking out DH Josh Bell and first baseman Mike Jacobs, but Clevlen crushed Figueroa's 3-2 offering to dead center field for a two-run homer.

"We have had times when we struggled either offensively or defensively, but we really came together these past few weeks," said Pollock, the game's MVP who went 2-for-5 with a triple, a double and two runs scored. "It wasn't one person, it was everybody being able to come through in key spots."

Pollock and crew got back to work in bottom of the second. Third baseman Tyler Bortnick led off with a single, but Figueroa proceeded to induce two weak flyouts to regain control—at least temporarily.

Pollock brought in Bortnick with an RBI double and scored four pitches later when Kuhn singled back up the middle. Bell brought in Kuhn with a RBI single of his own to extend the Reno lead to 6-0.

Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler pulled Figueroa after his second inning of work. He allowed six runs on seven hits in what was easily the righthander's worst start of the playoffs.

It's hard to know what to expect in a one-game situation like this, but it was huge to get those runs across," said Pollock, who also earned MVP honors in the PCL playoffs for hitting .333 with six extra-base hits, six runs and six RBIs in nine games.

Bauer Outage

Staked to a six-run lead through two innings, Reno starter Trevor Bauer nevertheless labored to find the strike zone in his 4 2/3 innings of work. The Diamondbacks' No. 1 prospect heading into the season, Bauer walked 10 batters in 11 2/3 innings during the PCL playoffs and then handed out seven more free passes in the National Championship game.

Bauer walked Pawtucket's No. 8 and 9 hitters—shortstop Jonathan Hee and center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin—in both the third and fourth innings. The 21-year-old righthander escaped unscathed in the third, but he was not as fortunate in the fourth when he walked three more batters, including Lin with the bases loaded to give Pawtucket its first run of the game.

Red Sox second baseman Tony Thomas homered to lead off the fifth inning, but Bauer settled down to record two quick outs and appeared destined for the win. But then first baseman Andy LaRoche doubled down the left-field line, and Bauer loaded the bases with back-to-back walks, forcing Butler to remove him.

"It seemed like one inning I could throw pretty good and then after that it would just spiral on me," said Bauer, who struck out six, but threw just 49 of 101 pitches for strikes and allowed two runs on four hits. "If I knew why it was happening I would have tried to fix it."

Righthander Mike DeMark relieved Bauer and got credit for the win with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. He struck out three, including Hee with the bases loaded to end the fifth.

"That is really what solidified it for us," Butler said. "He came in and shut the door right there. I think that was the key to the game."

In the bottom of the fifth, 22-year-old left fielder Keon Broxton, who joined Reno for the playoff run after spending the entire season at high Class A Visalia, smacked a two-run homer to extend the Aces' advantage to 10-2.

"It was just a blessing," Broxton said. "I wasn't expecting to be here. I was expecting to go home. I'm glad I could help this team out any way I could."

Broxton's home run ended any drama. Reno's quartet of righty relievers—Demark, Sam Demel, Jensen Lewis and Jonathan Albaladejo—allowed five baserunners and only one run in their 4 1/3 frames.

"I haven't seen a team come together like we had this year," Pollock said. "Every guy gave everything they had."