Over the past few weeks, Trevor Oaks has been as good as any starter in the Pacific Coast League.
In his past six outings, the Omaha Storm Chasers right-hander has allowed two earned runs in 36 innings. And that includes his six shutout frames against Oklahoma City in an 8-0 victory Sunday at Werner Park.
Oaks (4-3), who had pitched for the Dodgers organization in the previous two seasons, struck out a season-high seven batters against his former team. He scattered four hits, all singles, and walked one in the win.
“It was definitely a lot of swings and misses. They were in swing mode for a long part of the day,” Oaks said. “I know a lot of those guys, so they know what my tendencies are. I noticed (OKC manager Bill Haselman) stuck seven lefties in the lineup, so I know he was trying to play to my weakness a little bit.”
Left-handed batters (.282) are hitting nearly 100 points higher than right-handed ones (.185) against Oaks in minor league games this season. But lately, very few hitters are finding success against him.
Additionally, the 25-year-old prospect has walked only six batters in his past five starts after issuing four free passes in each of his three outings that preceded that stretch. Oaks spent a few days in the majors with the Royals during that span, and credited Kansas City pitching coach Cal Eldred with helping him out.
“When I went up to the big leagues and worked a little bit with Cal, he made some adjustments in my delivery,” the fifth-year pro out of California Baptist said. “I kind of got my timing back with my arm swing, and I’ve just rode that wave a little bit. I’m still trying to minimize the walks and everything. Pounding the zone a little better and just trying to stay ahead of batters, I think, has been the key.”
Oaks gave up a leadoff single to Andrew Toles to open Sunday’s game and then walked Breyvic Valera. A strikeout and a double play got him out of that inning. The Dodgers didn’t have runner reach second after.
Storm Chasers manager Brian Poldberg said Oaks, who is second in the PCL after lowering his ERA to 2.05, seemed to buckle down after he got into a little bit of trouble to begin the game Sunday.
“The first two guys got on. But he got out of that, and kind of built off of that,” Poldberg said. “His slider was a good pitch. He had one walk, and that was the second batter of the game. He mixed pitches. I thought I’d seen him throw more sliders than I’d seen him throw in a while. But, hey, it was effective.”
Oaks got plenty of run support as the Chasers hit three home runs off Oklahoma City starter Tyler Pill. Donnie Dewees, who finished a double shy of a cycle, had a two-run shot in the fourth to put Omaha up 3-0. Ryan O’Hearn then homered to spark a five-run fifth that included an Humberto Arteaga grand slam.
Billy Burns also extended his season-long hitting streak to nine games with an RBI double in the second.
Oaks credited catcher Cam Gallagher for recognizing what the Dodgers were trying to do and calling pitches to counter it. The right-hander is riding a wave of confidence since tossing three scoreless innings against the Angels in his third big league appearance with Kansas City at the start of the month.
“Knowing that I can compete there, you just come back and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do the same thing here,’ ” he said. “Don’t let your foot off the gas and just keep going. Obviously, there’s some uncertainty with what’s going on with the club right now. But you just have to wait your turn and just keep pitching the best you can.”