The Pacific Coast League has seen 44 players reach double-digits in home runs this year. Only one of those players is a Reno Ace. Rusty Ryal has homered in five of his last six games dating back to the last game of the first half, split by his appearance in the Triple-A All-Star Game. His 16 homers on the season total twice the amount of his nearest teammate, Trent Oeltjen.
"Recognize pitches, be ready to hit, and control your zone," Ryal listed as the keys to his success when he is swinging the bat well.
But as hot as Ryal has been, the recent power surge might be better attributed to newcomer Brandon Allen. Allen has hit five home runs in his first 33 Reno at-bats since coming over from the White Sox organization At least one Ace has homered in all 10 games in which Allen has appeared. Of course, that is made somewhat easier since Allen did the honors in five games all by himself.
Allen joined the Aces with a reputation as a power hitter, and just in case any pitchers missed his scouting report, all they need to do is look at his 6-foot-2, 235-pound, muscled frame and it's pretty evident what he can do when he gets a hold of a baseball. His presence in the lineup is likely providing better pitches to hit for the other players around him.
Ruben Gotay went 4-for-4 with a homer last night, likely seeing better pitches at the bottom of the Aces' lineup since the middle is suddenly so potent. Catcher John Hester is another of the beneficiaries, as he blasted two home runs on Monday batting cleanup behind Allen. Hester only hit one dinger in the first two months of the season, but has cranked out five since.
"I could definitely improve more power-wise and average-wise," Hester told us last year. "I'm still learning my swing and what I need to do. I'm a long way from reaching my full potential, I believe."
He seems to be a lot closer now than he was a year ago, just as the Aces are hitting a lot better than they were two weeks ago. As long as Allen and Ryal are hitting with authority in the middle of the lineup, that is likely to continue.
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