Normally energetic Las Vegas Ballpark didn’t rouse until the eighth inning Saturday night when the normally potent Aviators lineup finally put together a rally.
It wasn’t enough to will the home team to a win.
The Sacramento River Cats held down the Aviators most of the night in front of an announced crowd of 7,242 and then escaped in the eighth to win Game 4 of their best-of-five first-round Pacific Coast League playoff series 5-3. The teams will play again at 12:05 p.m. Sunday at Las Vegas Ballpark to determine who will advance to the second round.
The Aviators trailed 4-1 entering the eighth after managing two hits in the first seven innings. Second baseman Eric Campbell and left fielder Mark Payton then hit consecutive singles and catcher Dustin Garneau followed with a run-scoring double to put runners on second and third with one out. A fielder’s choice scored another run, but designated hitter Jonah Heim grounded out to first base to end the threat.
River Cats second baseman Peter Maris hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to complete the scoring.
The rally proved too little, too late for the Aviators, who struggled against Sacramento’s Carlos Navas to start the game and finished with only five hits. Navas, a 27-year-old right-hander, wasn’t overpowering but allowed just one hit and no runs in five innings.
He got off to a rocky start by hitting Aviators shortstop Jorge Mateo with a pitch to start the game but settled down after that. Mateo left the game in the second inning, but an update on the All-Star’s status wasn’t immediately available.
Navas’ strong start allowed his team to build a 4-0 lead. Aviators starter Grant Holmes was pulled in the fifth inning after allowing three runs, and River Cats third baseman Cristhian Adames hit a solo home run in the sixth.
Those runs proved to be enough support for the Sacramento pitching staff, even though the Aviators ranked second in the PCL in batting average, slugging percentage and on base slugging percentage.
River Cats reliever Enderson Franco retired all three batters in the ninth inning to stave off elimination.
The Las Vegas franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 1988.
Aviators vs. Sacramento
Game 1: Aviators 9-3
Game 2: Sacramento 8-6
Game 3: Aviators 11-4
Game 4: Sacramento 5-3
Game 5: Sunday at Las Vegas, 12:05 p.m.