There is an old baseball adage that says hitting is contagious.
For New Orleans, dominant starting pitching has been also.
Sandy Alcantara, the Marlins’ top prospect, slowed Omaha’s offense in the series opener Friday. Then Ben Meyer, who boasts one of the league’s best ERAs, limited the Storm Chasers to two hits Saturday.
And when Trevor Richards took the mound Sunday at Werner Park, he was trying to keep the momentum going for a rotation that had recorded six consecutive quality starts with a 1.45 ERA. And he did so by retiring 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced, allowing only an infield single in that stretch, in a 5-2 victory.
“Within a pitching staff, it’s always fun to have competition,” Richards said. “When you see a guy the night before you do well, you want to do the same the next night. It’s just a continuous circle. When the staff is going good, it’s fun to be a part of.”
By the time Jack Lopez ripped a hard-hit double off Richards, the Baby Cakes had already built a 5-0 lead in their third straight win over Omaha. New Orleans, which racked up 33 hits in the first two games of the series, touched Chasers starter Heath Fillmyer for five runs on nine hits through five innings.
All but one of them were singles, including a pair of run-scoring ones by JT Riddle, who notched his third consecutive three-hit game for New Orleans. The Cakes shortstop has driven in seven runs in the series.
“It seems like they always have the right guy up in the right situation,” Omaha manager Brian Poldberg said.
That hasn’t been the case for the Chasers, who have fallen behind 10-0 and 5-0 in the past two games. Omaha, for some reason, has batted only .220 at home this season — 32 points lower than on the road.
Poldberg said much of what happened this weekend had a lot to do with the New Orleans staff.
“When you’re going good, things are right. You’ve got to tip your hat,” he said. “Their starters have done a good job to kind of slowing us up a little bit. We were swinging the bat pretty good in Des Moines.”
Every starter in the Baby Cakes rotation is pitching like an ace. And New
Orleans also has an ace in the hole. Former Chasers hitting coach Tommy Gregg is now on its staff and knows Omaha’s hitters well.
“Yeah, that helps. Any scouting report, any info we get, always helps to have us execute,” Richards said. “I didn’t really realize that until just the other day. But that’s always nice. The more (I know), the better.”
Poldberg said even if Gregg does know the weaknesses of the Chasers hitters, the pitchers still have to execute any game plan the Baby Cakes are implementing.
“You’ve still got to get the ball there,” he said. “If you don’t get it there, you’re going to give it up.”
The first run Omaha scored off Richards on Sunday crossed because of a miscommunication in the outfield on a fly ball by Parker Morin that dropped for a double. Frank Schwindel homered for the Chasers later.
New Orleans has done much of its damage in the series with two outs. Poldberg said that has to change.
“They find a hole here or there,” he said. “You’ve just got to find a way to fight through it.”
Press box dedicated
The Omaha Storm Chasers officially dedicated their press box to former World-Herald writer Steve Pivovar, a 45-year veteran of The World-Herald and a baseball mainstay in the city. ‘Piv’ died from complications with kidney cancer in 2016.