The Omaha Storm Chasers 2013 Cinderella season continued Wednesday night at Werner Park in Omaha when designated hitter Brian Fletcher hit a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 2 of the PCL Championship, 2-1.
The Chasers have now won seven games in a row and have moved to within one win of securing its second PCL championship in three seasons. But Omaha manager Mike Jirschele knows it won't be easy. The series moves to Salt Lake after a travel day on Thursday.
"We've got to win one more game and it's not going to be easy out there because neither one today was easy," Jirschele said. "I felt for us really to have a chance to win this, we would have to win both games here. I felt it would be really tough to go out there and try to win two out of three against those guys on their home field where they play so well."
Game 2 was a dramatic, low-scoring pitcher's duel between Salt Lake's Tommy Hanson, who has a lot of big league experience with the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels, and Yordano Ventura, Kansas City's third highest prospect.
The Bees scraped a run together in the fourth inning against Ventura (who hit 101 mph on the stadium radar gun on a couple of pitches) on a single by Efren Navarro, who advanced to second on a wild pitch and then scored on a single by Scott Cousins. Ventura went on to give up just one earned run in six innings of work on three hits. He walked three and struck out six.
Meanwhile, Hanson kept Omaha off the board until the seventh inning, but the Chasers finally broke through on an RBI single by Rey Navarro. Hanson was gone by then, but he was responsible for the runner. He ended up tossing 6.1 innings on four hits and four walks, striking out four.
Zach Jackson pitched three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to get Omaha to the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win it. Fletcher launched a 1-1 fastball over the right field wall for the win. He says Chad Cordero threw him a fastball away.
"It was the bottom of the ninth in a tied game, and one run can do it," Fletcher said. "The main thing is just trying to stay patient and not be too anxious. A couple of my teammates told me to just relax when I went up there and just treat it like another at-bat and that's what I tried to do. I was fortunate enough to get a fastball that I could handle and luckily it went out, to win the game."
Did he think about winning the game with one swing?
"Absolutely," he said. "Every guy who goes up there, you know, they want to be the hero and hit it out, but I try to take it in simpler terms and try and get on base knowing that our lineup, up and down, can get the job done. All around, it was just a great job, especially from our pitching staff. They were awesome, keeping us in the game."
That has been the story all postseason, especially when it comes to Omaha's bullpen. They have thrown 21 2/3 innings this postseason and have only given up one earned run (0.42 ERA).
Since 1998 when the PCL expanded to 16 teams, eight teams have a taken a 2-0 series lead and all eight times it led to a sweep.