Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
The winner of the season series between the Las Vegas 51s and the Reno Aces will take home the Silver State Plate trophy.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell have even placed a friendly wager on the baseball series.
Sounds like a blossoming rivalry developing between Nevada’s two teams in the Pacific Coast League. But 51s manager Mike Basso isn’t convinced.
“It’s just another game on the schedule,” Basso said. “It might be a rivalry for the fans or the mayor, but it’s just not that way.”
Reno (70-61) defeated Las Vegas (64-68) 6-4 Thursday night to extend its season series lead to 7-5. The two teams will face off four more times through Sunday to close out their series for the 2009 season.
If the 51s can sweep the next four, they will reach the .500 mark. The players say that is their primary motivation — not bragging rights over their in-state opponents.
“I think it’s nice to have another team in the state of Nevada to play against,” 51s pitcher T.J. Beam said. “It’s so new and so fresh that there hasn’t been any history laid down to make it a rivalry.”
This is the Aces’ inaugural season in Reno as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. The franchise moved from Tucson, Ariz., where it was the Tucson Sidewinders.
Beam said he thought it would take a pennant race or championship game to make the Las Vegas-Reno series relevant. This week’s games are the opposite of those scenarios.
Las Vegas is 18.5 games behind Sacramento in the Pacific Southern division and out of contention for the title. Reno, meanwhile, is 12 games behind Sacramento and two losses away from being eliminated.
“It will be cool to make something out of it,” Las Vegas designated hitter J.P. Arencibia said. “We are out of the playoff hunt, so this can kind of be our playoff atmosphere.”
Goodman’s bet with Cashell certainly gives it that kind of feel. If the 51s lose the series, Goodman will be forced to wear a Reno jersey for one full business day. If the 51s win, Cashell will sport a Las Vegas jersey.
In addition, the losing mayor will make a donation to a charity of the winner’s choosing.
“We’ve heard about the stakes,” Arencibia said. “It’s cool if the fans enjoy it, because obviously that will make it a lot more fun for us.”
Arencibia said it is difficult for rivalries to thrive in the minor leagues because of the constantly changing rosters. Teams can look different from week to week because of major league call-ups or demotions.
Beam pointed out that although the Aces and 51s are in the same PCL division, their organizations are not natural foes with the Diamondbacks in the National League and the Blue Jays in the American League.
Still, Beam said, he thought the series could eventually become a true rivalry. “I definitely think there’s potential in the future,” he said.