Onelki Garcia keeps rolling in Storm Chasers’ shutout victory, may be on track for K.C. call-up

It’s too early to know for sure, but Omaha’s Onelki Garcia may be pitching his way to a late-season call-up.

The Cuban-

born left-hander is on Kansas City’s 40-man roster. But after striking out eight in seven shutout innings for a 5-0 win over Sacramento on Sunday at Werner Park, he took another step toward it.

The 27-year-old Garcia, once a highly touted prospect for the Dodgers, allowed four hits and walked one as he won his fourth straight start. The Storm Chasers earned their first series victory since early June.

“He’s given us so many big outings,” manager Brian Poldberg said. “He was the pitcher of the month in July. It didn’t look like he had his good stuff. Then, all of a sudden, it’s the seventh inning and he hasn’t given up any runs yet. Really, the hardest-hit balls were outs. The soft ones were hits.”

The River Cats put their leadoff batter aboard in four of the first five innings. But Garcia pitched around it in his longest outing of the season. Omaha improved to 5-2 in games that he starts.

Garcia was supported by countryman Jorge Soler, who homered in the sixth and seventh innings as the Chasers pushed a 1-0 advantage to a five-run lead. The outfielder has struggled at the big league level this season, batting .154 with 34 strikeouts, but has 15 home runs with Omaha.

Poldberg said Soler, who was 3 for 3 with a walk Sunday, has picked it up since his latest demotion.

“It started off a little slow,” he said. “I think he’s to the point now where he’s relaxed.”

Until Soler uncorked a pair of 400-foot bombs to give Garcia some breathing room, the Chasers were clinging to a 1-0 lead thanks to the speed of outfielder Billy Burns. Omaha’s leadoff hitter beat out an infield hit in the first inning, stole second, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Cheslor Cuthbert.

“Any time he puts the ball in play, he’s got a chance to get to first,” Poldberg said. “And then, once he gets to first, he can steal second and steal third. It definitely puts the defense on the defense.”

Burns swiped three bases Sunday after stealing two Saturday. He has a team-best 19.

“I’ve just been working on some stuff,” he said. “Hopefully, it will enable me to be more aggressive out there.”

Poldberg said the Omaha staff had Burns shorten up his leads.

“He was getting off so far that he was more worried about getting back than going forward,” he said. “I think that’s helped his jumps because he knows he can get back so he’s getting off the mark better.”

Burns and Soler, like Garcia, may be trending toward a promotion late in the season. Both outfielders have been with the Royals already this season.

“They’re going to be looking for anything in September,” Poldberg said. “If there’s somebody on a roll, and the right people see him at the right time, there’s no saying what could happen.”

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