Charlotte, NC -- Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers defeated the Pawtucket Paw Sox by a score of 4-2 in a rain logged game in front of a crowd of 8,886 fans on Tuesday night.
It didn't take long for Red Sox prospect Rusney Castillo to make an impact in this Triple-A National Championship game. Leading off the bottom of the first inning, the right-handed batter homered off the first pitch he saw and handed Pawtucket a 1-0 lead.
The 27-year-old outfielder signed from Cuba on a $72.5 million contract with Boston this year and is expected to make an immediate impact with the Red Sox. Castillo has only appeared in games involving minor league playoffs so far this season, first with the Sox Rookie-level club in the Gulf Coast League, then Portland in the Double-A playoffs and now batting .278 in the International League Playoffs with a pair of doubles prior to the Championship game. He's expected to make his major league debut on Wednesday.
Omaha responded in the top of the second inning when Cheslor Cuthbert drove a pitch deep into the left field stands. The 21-year-old third baseman fell out of favor with prospect experts after struggling in Double-A last season, but got the better of a dominating Edwin Escobar in this at-bat.
Cuthbert struck again in the fourth, when he drove in Brett Hayes on a sacrifice fly. Hayes had reached on a ground-rule double, before moving to third on a Brett Eibner fly ball.
A rain delay of one hour and forty-six minute suspended the game and chased Edwin Escobar from the game. Escobar finished strong, allowing just two earned runs in five innings of work, while striking out six. The left-hander displayed a fastball ranging from 94-97 paired with a decent changeup during this outing.
The 22-year-old Edwin Escobar has five starts in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's put up a 4.28 ERA. Originally signed by the Texas Rangers, the Venezuelan was traded in 2010 to San Francisco for Ben Snyder and then to Boston this summer for Jake Peavy.
Following the rain delay, Omaha brought in Kyle Zimmer, the number one ranked prospect in the Royals system by John Sickels. Zimmer allowed just one hit, a home run in the sixth inning to Travis Shaw. Besides the long ball, Zimmer was solid, striking out four in two innings of work and left the game after two innings in line for the win. The right-handed pitcher works with an inconsistent fastball that ratchets up to 97, but usually sits at 94, paired with a solid curveball.
One of the highlights of the game involved Zimmer facing Rusney Castillo in the fifth and striking out the Cuban outfielder on a high fastball. The game had just resumed when rain began falling hard during the at-bat. Both players represented a significant investment by their respective teams and they were competing in a difficult environment, but Zimmer dominated the right-handed hitter, mixing his curve, with the high heat.
Brett Hayes broke open the game for Omaha with a two-run homer in the seventh off of Pawtucket pitcher Miguel Celestino. Hayes was the Most Valuable Player in the game, finishing with a double, home run and two runs scored.
Omaha was competing in it's third Championship game in the past four seasons and the Storm Chasers are the defending Triple-A National Champions. Pawtucket last competed in the 2012 National Championship Game, falling 10-3 to Reno.