With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Omaha’s chances seemed slim.
New Orleans first baseman Jon Rodriguez spoiled a solid outing by Scott Barlow with a first-pitch grand slam in the top of the seventh that gave the Baby Cakes a 4-1 lead Wednesday at Werner Park. And Miami’s top pitching prospect, Sandy Alcantara, was working on a four-hitter and had retired six straight.
Then Alcantara, who beat the Storm Chasers 19 days ago at Werner, seemed to run out of gas. He walked Logan Moon on four pitches, surrendered a single to Humberto Arteaga then walked Billy Burns.
That set the stage for a four-run rally that resulted in a 5-4 win for Omaha. Frank Schwindel tied the game with a two-out, two-run single then scored on Cam Gallagher’s hit.
“We’re swinging the bat pretty well,” Gallagher said. “We’ve got to tip our hat to (Alcantara). He pitched pretty well. After he came out of the game, we just continued to keep doing what we were doing to kind of get a rally going.
“Everyone put together good at-bats, and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Severino Gonzalez replaced Alcantara with the bases loaded and got Adalberto Mondesi to hit a chopper to first base for the second out. Moon scored on the grounder to make it 4-2.
Schwindel followed with a line drive to left field to even the game. Gonzalez then walked Ryan O’Hearn on four pitches to set the stage for Gallagher, who lined an 0-2 pitch to plate the go-ahead run.
“I’m just trying to stay with my approach,” he said. “(I’m not) trying to do a lot, especially when we’ve got the winning run on base. I’m just trying to get something I can hit. … The first couple of pitches I swung at, I was kind of coming out of my approach. I just told myself to keep doing what I’m doing and trust it. He left one out over the plate, and I was fortunate enough to get it out in the outfield and it dropped.”
The rally gave Omaha its second straight home win over New Orleans, which won the first four meetings at Werner. This was the 11th time the Chasers and Baby Cakes had faced each other in 20 days. And Omaha played the odds when opting to pitch to Rodriguez in the seventh inning.
With runners at second and third with one out, the Chasers intentionally walked Rafael Ortega to set up a potential double play. Rodriguez roped a slider from Barlow just above the wall in left for a grand slam.
It was New Orleans’ first grand slam since its 2016 season opener against Omaha and its second since April of 2014. Gallagher, the Chasers catcher, said Rodriguez was sitting on the slider.
“We’ve faced these guys a lot in the last month,” he said. “When we face guys like that, you get a good scouting report. He’s been kind of killing us with fastballs, and we wanted to go out there and go first-pitch slider. It wasn’t a great pitch by Barlow, and he had a heck of a game tonight.
“It was just one pitch. But these guys are good hitters. And he left it up, and the guy was fortunate to sneak it over the fence.”
Barlow carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh, but got in trouble after back-to-back singles by JT Riddle and Tomas Telis.
“Barlow threw a great game,” Chasers manager Brian Poldberg said. “He changed speeds with his off-speed stuff and located, and then he gave up four runs in the seventh. I’m very happy with his outing.”
Poldberg also was pleased by the way his batters remained locked in one night after tallying 15 singles.
“Coming off a win, it kind of carries over and creates a little more positive attitude,” he said. “When you start winning, it gets contagious. It gets guys not to just lay down after you have a one-run lead and now you’re down three with two at-bats to go, to go out there and get it done in the bottom of the eighth.”
Brandon Maurer allowed a single and two walks in the ninth before striking out Riddle with the bases loaded to end the game. Eric Stout got the win for the Chasers with a scoreless eighth.
“This is a good lineup. They’ve got five guys hitting over .300, and you’ve got Rodriguez hitting eighth and he’s leading the team in home runs,” Poldberg said. “It takes a well-played game to have a chance to win, and then it takes a little luck to get it done.”