Omaha Storm Chasers outfielder Gorkys Hernandez blasted a three-run game-winning home run to left field on Friday night in Game 3 of the Pacific Coast League American Conference Championship in Omaha, sending the team into the PCL Championship Series against the Salt Lake Bees set to begin in Omaha on Tuesday night.
After the game, as the champagne flowed in the clubhouse, Hernandez addressed his teammates, telling them it was his final game of the season.
"I can't be in the finals because I'm going to Venezuela to check on my baby," he said. "I want to be with my family because it's my first. "
His teammates applauded.
"But you're going to the finals, so obviously you're going to win."
They drenched him.
Omaha manager Mike Jirschele spoke next. He has a sarcastic side that seems to resonate with players and he put it on full display.
"Great job, fellas," he said. "It's another step toward where we want to be at the end of the season. Gorkys, thanks for doing something before you left. It was nice for you to finally contribute. Good job."
His teammates burst out in laughter.
"No really," he said pointing his champagne bottle toward Hernandez, "Good job."
Hernandez, who turned 26 on Saturday, has struggled with the Storm Chasers since being traded to the team on July 22 from the Miami Marlins organization. Since joining Omaha, he has hit just .231 in 34 games. And his struggles were magnified even more over his final 10 games of the regular season in which he went 2-for-31 (.065).
He came to the plate on Friday night against Oklahoma City with two men on base and the Chasers trailing 6-4. Omaha was leading the best of five series two games to none.
Oklahoma City reliever Jason Stoffel threw Hernandez several sliders, so Hernandez got a good look at them. Then Stoffel changed things up and came at him with a fastball, which Hernandez hit foul.
"I said, ‘Okay, I have one chance and I was looking for a pitch from the middle in," Hernandez said. "He threw me a slider inside and I hit a home run. It was a big situation. I didn't try to hit a home run. I tried to hit a line drive into the gap to tie the game, but he threw me a slider and I hit a home run."
"We kept chipping away and got back into it," Jirschele said. "We knew that if we could get a couple of guys on that we could win it with one swing of that bat and that's what happened.
"He hung Gorkys a slider and I knew when he hit it, it was gone."