Storm Chasers strike early en route to victory over Fresno

Storm Chasers strike early en route to victory over Fresno
World-Herald News Service

Eric Stout has thrived in clutch situations this season.

Entering Sunday’s game with Fresno at Werner Park, Omaha’s left-handed reliever had stranded the last 14 runners he inherited — a string dating to May 8.

Stout was called upon again with two on and one out and the Storm Chasers nursing a 4-2 lead in the seventh. In nine pitches, he recorded a flyout and strikeout to escape trouble.

“It’s just getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes,” Stout said. “I’ve been on the same page with (our catchers) the whole year. We’re just going with the game plan that the catchers get before the game.

“And then I’m just trusting those guys, getting ahead of hitters and being consistent with my pitches.”

Kevin McCarthy followed Stout with two scoreless frames to close Omaha’s 5-2 victory. The Chasers scored four runs in the first to back Onelki Garcia’s third consecutive win.

Dean Anna doubled in Billy Burns, who opened the first with a single off David Martinez. Logan Moon launched a three-run homer a short time later to give Garcia a 4-0 lead.

The lefty allowed three hits, including a two-run home run by JD Davis, before exiting in the sixth with an apparent leg cramp. Omaha entered the game with five pitchers on the disabled list. Chasers manager Brian Poldberg said pulling Garcia (5-2) was more of a precautionary move.

“We’ve had some guys beat up, but this guy’s a horse,” he said. “He works as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen. When you get out there, you’re going to cramp up on occasion. We’re hoping that’s all it was.”

Garcia, a former Dodgers prospect, has been a valuable swing pitcher for Omaha. The lefty has been used as a starter and a reliever since joining the Chasers from Double-A early in the year.

“We brought him up from Double-A when we needed a body,” Poldberg said. “And then we needed a guy to give us innings. And then he got in the rotation. He’s been outstanding for us.”

Kyle Zimmer replaced Garcia in the sixth, then walked the first two batters he faced in the next inning. He left after striking out Max Stassi, leaving two runners on for Stout in the seventh. Stout got Reid Brignac to fly out and then struck out Alejandro Garcia.

“You’ve just got to be aware of the guys on base,” he said. “It just comes back down to settling down and throwing strikes — trying to get a ground ball, a strikeout or whatever you need in that situation.”

Stout allowed a run in his previous outing on Omaha’s recent road trip. But he started that inning.

“He got in trouble the other night because I started him in an inning,” Poldberg joked. “I shouldn’t do that anymore.”

Stout said he hasn’t paid too much attention to his success rate when inheriting runners. The first three that he was handed this season — his first in Triple-A — scored. He hasn’t allowed one since.

“As a lefty reliever, I just kind of focus on getting my lefties out,” he said. “That’s the one thing I pride myself in. Besides that, I just try to go out there and get outs, wherever the team needs me.”

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