Don’t look now but the Reno Aces are the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League.
The Aces swept the Iowa Cubs in a doubleheader on Wednesday, winning the first game 13-1 behind two homers by Jamie Romak and taking the second game 3-2. The Aces (22-24) now have a PCL-best four-game winning streak and are in second place in the Pacific Northern Division, four games behind Fresno. Iowa fell to 22-23, nine games behind Oklahoma City in the American Northern Division.
The Aces beat the Cubs in the first game with power (Jarrod Saltalamacchia also homered) and used small ball to complete the sweep.
Pitcher Justin Marks singled to open the third innig of the second game for the Aces. Danny Dorn then drove in a run with a double to cut Iowa’s lead to 2-1. Dorn then scored later in the inning as Peter O’Brien reached on an error by Iowa third baseman Christian Vallanueva.
Iowa had taken a 2-0 lead with a run in the first and second innings. Arismendy Alcantara scored in the first on a ground out by Villanueva. Chris Valaika doubled and scored on a single by Jonathan Mota in the second.
The Aces, though, took the lead in the fourth on a gift run, scoring without the benefit of a hit.
Romak walked with one out. He then stole second with two outs and went to third on a throwing error by Iowa catcher Taylor Teagarden. Romak then scored the eventual winning run on a passed ball that got through Teagarden.
Marks went three innings and allowed four hits and two runs. Kevin Munson then pitched two shutout innings, allowing just one hit and fanning four. Munson got the victory (2-0) and tossed 23 of his 33 pitches for strikes. Keleb Fleck pitched a shutout sixth inning and Jake Barrett nailed down the victory with a shutout seventh inning for his 10th save of the year. PCL doubleheader games are just seven innings.
The Aces had just four hits (a double by Dorn and singles by Romak, Marks and Trayvon Robinson) in the second game off Iowa pitchers Carlos Pimentel and Yoanner Negrin. Pimentel suffered the loss (2-3) and allowed three runs (one earned) in four innings. Negrin pitched three shutout innings and struck out five.
The first game was a power show by Romak.
The Aces’ third baseman drilled two home runs and drove in six runs to lead the Aces to a convincing 13-1 win. Romak, who had 21 at-bats with the Los Angeles Dodgers (one hit) last season, hit a home run to lead off the second inning to give the Aces a 2-1 lead. He also clouted a grand slam to key the Aces’ six-run sixth inning. His other RBI in the game came on a run-scoring single in the third inning.
Romak now has seven home runs this season and 180 for his minor league career which began in 2005. Last season Romak had four two-homer games for Albuquerque of the PCL while playing in the Dodgers organization. He had two homers against Salt Lake on May 19, two against Las Vegas on July 5, two against Tacoma on Aug. 5 and two more against Memphis on Aug. 13. He hit 24 home runs last season for Albuquerque.
Romak has shown great power in the minor leagues in recent years. In addition to the 24 he hit last year, he had 27 for Memphis in 2013, 21 for Omaha, Springfield and Memphis in 2012 and 23 for Northwest Arkansas in 2011.
Romak, who was born in Canada, wasn’t the only Aces player to put up big numbers against Iowa in the first game of Wednesday’s double header. Garrett Weber scored three runs and walked twice to go along with a single, Dorn had three more hits and is now hitting .467, Peter O’Brien had two hits and a walk, Nick Evans had two hits and a RBI, Mike Freeman had three hits and three RBI and Saltalamacchia hit his second home run of the year.
Allen Webster went six innings to pick up his first win (1-1) of the year. Webster allowed just four hits and a run and a walk while striking out six. Troy Marks (no relation to Justin) pitched a shutout seventh inning to finish the victory. Felipe Paulino started for Iowa and gave up nine hits and six runs in just 3.2 innings. The Aces also roughed up Iowa reliever Hunter Cervenka for six runs and four hits in one-third of an inning.
Saltalamacchia’s homer came in the sixth inning after Romak’s grand slam.