Great game at Reno Aces ballpark last nite, featuring their system’s top pitching prospect making his AAA debut. We sprang for the $18 tickets a dozen rows behind the Aces dugout to get a good look at him: Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft out of UCLA, whose slight build and arching windup immediately reminded me of Tim Lincecum. He buzzed through the first three batters, showing good command of a low 90s fastball (he touched 95 later in the game) and some wicked off-speed stuff that had opposing batters flailing (and his catcher scrambling around in the dirt). He scattered only 3 hits over the first 7 innings but worked out of a few jams when other baserunners reached on errors or walks.
Bauer’s counterpart kept the Aces’ bats quiet for the most part despite two Aces entering the game hitting over .400 and another over .370. The Aces broke through with a run in the 3rd when the third baseman’s two-out double high off the leftfield wall scored the centerfielder from third. They added to the lead with a solo shot to right by the first baseman (who was playing in his first game after serving a 50-game suspension for PEDs) in the 7th.
But the clear story of the game was young Trevor Bauer. He certainly didn’t look overmatched by the competition at his new level and was working on a 3-hit shutout in the 8th when the Redhawk catcher managed to muscle a 3-2 pitch high down the line in right for a solo homer that cut the lead to 2-1. Trevor finished the inning, striking out the side, and received a standing ovation from the crowd but he was pinch-hit for in the bottom half.
He was succeeded by a junkballing lefty who struck out the first batter in the 9th with three pitches that topped out at 71 mph but who was lifted for a fat righty after the next batter singled. Was the lefty brought in first just because there were two lefties scheduled to hit first and this portly chap was the real closer? Well, neither appeared to have closer stuff, as the second also featured a lot of 75 mph junk and walked the first batter he faced to put the tying run in scoring position.
It would’ve been a shame for the bullpen to blow this win, as well as Bauer had pitched, but that’s exactly what appeared to happen as the next batter rifled a single to centerfield. As the lead runner rounded third and the centerfielder scooped up the ball and threw it in one fluid motion, I thot “Nice try but yer just too deep to get the ball all the way to the plate in time to catch the runner.” How wrong I was. He threw a pill straight over the pitching rubber on one perfect hop to the plate. The catcher must’ve blocked the plate because the runner beat the ball by a split-second but when the dust had cleared and the catcher produced the ball from his mitt for all to see, the ump emphatically signaled the out and there was no argument from the runner or the manager (who doubles as the third base coach in AAA, so he had a pretty good view). The crowd, most of us already on our feet to get a better view of the play, went nuts (with the exception of my wife, who remained seated and wasn’t sure what had happened). For some reason, the runners didn’t advance on the throw — perhaps they were watching the play with the rest of us or maybe they thot the ball was hit much too deep and the throw would be cut off — so there was reduced drama for the final out, a grounder to short flipped to second.
The night was capped by the Friday night fireworks display shot from behind the centerfield wall (brought to you by St. Mary’s Hospital and KRNV-4, northern Nevada’s news leader). It was a lot longer and more impressive than I expected. We left the stadium elated.
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N.B. Young Mr. Bauer was called up to the big leagues on June 28 and is now in the Diamondbacks’ rotation. Good thing we didn’t wait around to go see him.