Trevor Bauer might have been wild, but he was effectively wild.
Coming in as one of the Arizona Diamondbacks' top pitching prospects, the right-hander stifled the Sacramento River Cats in his five innings, allowing just three hits and an unearned run en route to the 3-1 win for Reno. He outpaced Sacramento starter Bruce Billings despite walking five batters and struggling to throw strikes consistently.
Billings had a career night for the home team, setting a new career-high with 10 strikeouts at the Triple-A level (the righty struck out 13 in a start for High-A Modesto back in May 2009). He yielded just two unearned runs in six innings, but failed to get any support from his offense.
"It was awesome," River Cats' manager Darren Bush said of Billings' outing.
"He's thrown good all year, but tonight he was finishing them. Great job."
The 26-year-old Billings came into the game with a 3.53 ERA at home during the regular season, but he hadn't won a start at Raley Field since August 3. He finished the regular season with a 6.75 mark over his last three starts. But he was able to rebound and get five of his 10 strikeouts Wednesday looking.
The Aces' win means for the second-straight season Sacramento will have to comeback in order to advance in the playoffs. Last year, Bush's team rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win the five-game series against their budding rival that resides just 140 miles east up Interstate 80. After beating Reno last season, Sacramento went on to be swept in the Pacific Coast League Championship series by the Omaha Storm Chasers.
Bush isn't at all worried about his team after just one game.
"It's a five-game series. You'd love to be up and you'd love to win three games to zero," he said. "But that's just not the way it works sometimes. We've just got to go out tomorrow and play hard."
Reno scored twice in the third against Billings, with a rally started by a Grant Green error at third base followed by an A.J. Pollock single and Tyler Kuhn's flare down the right field line that went for an RBI-double. Mike Jacobs plated Pollock for the second run with a sac-fly down the line to deep right field.
The Aces added their third run when Tyler Bortnick took Arnold Leon's 2-0 pitch deep over the left field wall in the ninth.
The River Cats were unable to register an earned run on the night while accumulating just five hits total. They left eight runners on base and struck out 12 times.
Although he didn't have his best command, Bauer's pure stuff was enough to keep the River Cats' hitters off-balance.
"Everything comes out of the same arm slot," Bush said. "He's got a lot of movement going on and mixes his pitches well."
Bauer's delivery includes a lot of quick movement, followed by a short-arm release with the ball appearing to come out of his right ear. Without much reach back, his pitches offer a lot of deception and get on hitters quickly.
Sacramento came into postseason play with the PCL's best regular season record and winners of five of its last eight games. They averaged just under six runs per contest over that span.
First pitch for game two of the series is 7:05pm Thursday at Raley Field, with the River Cats' right-hander Jesse Chavez (8-5, 1.80 ERA) taking on Daniel Cabrera (1-1, 3.00 ERA). Bush announced that right-hander Dan Straily (6-3, 2.03 ERA) will start on Monday in game three of the series that travels to Reno. He will take on Charles Brewer (11-7, 5.99 ERA).