Reno was forced to overcome some unexpected adversity when Rafael Rodriguez came out of the bullpen and made a spot start after originally scheduled starter Matt Torra was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Aces were hoping just to get three innings out of Rodriguez and Reno got off to a promising start.
The first-place Aces used a five-run rally in the bottom of the first to steal the momentum out of the gates and they never looked back as they put up a 17-8 victory in front of 8,394 in attendance at Aces Ballpark.
After Salt Lake got on the scoreboard in the top of the first on an Efren Navarro RBI single to center field that scored Reggie Willits from second base, Reno touched up Bees starting pitcher Matt Palmer for five runs.
Palmer, who had an earned-run average 7.95 through his first 11 starts of the season, found a way to raise his ERA over the eight mark.
Palmer allowed a leadoff hit to Tony Abreu and walked Collin Cowgill. A throwing error allowed Brandon Allen to reach base and Abreu scored on the play.
Still with no outs, Cody Ransom launched his 22nd home run of the year over the wall in the left-center field power alley, making it a 4-1 game.
Then it was Andy Tracy’s turn, who just cleared the fence in left field for a solo home run and a 5-1 lead.
Palmer couldn’t keep the Aces in the yard in the bottom of the second either as Allen’s two-run homer down the right-field line increased the home team’s edge to 7-1. Cowgill singled with two outs to get on base for Allen.
Rodriguez hadn’t made a start yet this year, but he pitched like he didn’t have a 9.44 ERA before the game and made quick work of the Bees through the first three innings. He allowed one run on four hits and struck out two in that span.
However, Reno pushed its luck, trying to get Rodriguez to eat up another inning. Instead, that strategy let Salt Lake back in the game.
Rodriguez took the mound to start the top of the fourth and immediately loaded the bases with no outs. A wild pitch allowed a run to score and then Cole Armstrong doubled to right field, driving in a pair of runs. Rodriguez came out of the game with a 7-4 lead, but no outs in the fourth.
Jeff Bennett took over and recorded back-to-back outs, but an Alexi Amarista single plated Armstrong, cutting the deficit down to 7-5. All five runs were credited to Rodriguez, and his ERA elevated to just under 10.
The Aces got all of their lead back and more in the bottom of the fifth. Konrad Schmidt led off the inning with a double. Kyle Greene dropped down a bunt single and Schmidt scored when Evan Frey singled to right field.
The Bees didn’t do Palmer any favors when an error at shortstop loaded the bases with no outs. Palmer got an out on Cowgill’s sacrifice fly, but Palmer was pulled from the game, trailing 9-5.
Salt Lake reliever Ryan Ketchner couldn’t silence Reno’s bats either, giving up back-to-back doubles to Ransom and Tracy, which knocked in a trio of runs.
The Aces’ second five-run outburst of the game handed them a 12-5 advantage.
The gap got up to double digits an inning later. Reno put up three more runs in the sixth on a Frey RBI triple, an Abreu RBI fielder’s choice and an Allen run-scoring double. The Aces led 15-5 after six innings of play.
Jason Urquidez relieved Bennett to start the seventh and he gave up a run, closing the deficit to 15-6.
Reno pushed the lead back up over the 10-run plateau in the bottom half of the seventh.
Cole Gillespie singled up the middle with one out and came all the way around to score on Schmidt’s three-bagger to center. Schmidt came home on a groundout to second base, making it a 17-6 ballgame.
Salt Lake didn’t go quietly into the night, tacking on two more runs before all was said and done.
Reno managed to out-score Salt Lake by nine runs despite only out-hitting the Bees 18-16. Game 3 of the four-game set is scheduled for tonight at 7:05 p.m.