The Reno Aces got a huge ray of hope Monday night.
Left-hander Robbie Ray pitched five strong innings as the Aces beat the Albuquerque Isotopes 6-2 in front of 3,045 fans at Aces Ballpark. The victory gave the Aces a split in the four-game Pacific Coast League series after losing the first two games.
Ray struck out 10 and walked two and is now 1-1 this season with a 3,29 earned run average after three starts. The 23-year-old fanned eight of the last 10 Isotopes hitters he faced after loading the bases with no outs in the third inning. Ray struck out Angelys Nina and Tim Wheeler and got Ryan Casteel to fly out to left field to keep the Isotopes off the scoreboard in the third inning, preserving a 5-1 lead. He then struck out six of seven Isotopes hitters combined in the fourth and fifth innings.
Ray, a 12th round draft pick of the Washington Nationals in 2010, has bounced around the last two years. He was traded by the Nationals to the Detroit Tigers in December 2013 in a trade involving pitcher Doug Fister. A year later he was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team deal that saw the Diamondbacks ship shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees and the Yankees sending pitcher Shane Greene to the Tigers.
The only run Ray allowed on Monday came with two outs in the first inning. He walked Kyle Parker and allowed a RBI double to Ben Paulsen as the Isotopes took a 1-0 lead. Ray then allowed singles to Wheeler and Casteel to start the second inning but recovered by fanning Brian Barnes with runners on second and third to end the inning. He finished his evening by striking out Parker, Paulsen and Nina in the fifth in succession.
The Aces scored all the runs they needed in the first inning off Isotopes starter Jon Gray. Mike Freeman, who beat the Isotopes with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, started the first inning with a double. Peter O’Brien later doubled in a run in the inning and Cody Ransom drilled an 0-2 pitch over the left field wall for a three-run homer as the Aces took a 4-1 lead.
The Aces took a 5-1 lead in the second off Gray as Jamie Romak singled home Freeman.
Th Aces also scored a run in the seventh inning on a solo home run by O’Brien. O’Brien had a monster series against Albuquerque, going 7-for-15 with three home runs and six RBI as well as a double and five runs scored. That was after going hitless in his first three at-bats on Friday night.
Willy Paredes pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Aces and not allowing the Isotopes to put the ball in play. Paredes struck out the side and walked one on 23 pitches.
Las Vegas comes to Aces Ballpark for a four-game series starting Tuesday night.