After earning a win in Omaha, and seeing the possible repercussions of a megadeal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, those hopes are brighter on Friday night.
Home runs from Gil Velazquez, Mike Cervenak and Shawn Bowman supported starter Brad Hand, who held the Storm Chasers to one hit in five scoreless innings as the Zephyrs blanked Omaha, 6-0 at Werner Park.
The Z's gained a game on the first-place Albuquerque Isotopes, who had several star players, including league RBI leader Jerry Sands, sit out the team's 9-8 loss in Memphis, as the parent club Dodgers have several top prospects reportedly being offered in a proposed trade with the Red Sox.
New Orleans is back to within three games of the Isotopes with 10 games remaining in the regular season.
Velazquez wasted little time getting the Zephyrs on the board following a 62-minute rain delay, belting the first pitch of the game from Omaha starter Jake Odorizzi for his fourth home run of the season.
It was the 148th home run by a Zephyr this season, breaking the franchise record established in 2004.
The Z's would add two more home runs before the night was over, but not before a three-run rally in the fourth inning extended the lead. Chris Coghlan singled with one out, and back-to-back doubles by Cervenak and Scott Cousins plated a pair of runs. Bowman's two-out single scored Cousins for a 4-0 Zephyrs lead.
Hand walked four batters and struck out seven in five innings. He did not allow a hit until a one-out double by Rey Navarro in the fifth, but struck out Irving Falu to strand the bases loaded.
A second rain delay followed the inning, forcing Hand from the game, but not before the left-hander did enough to earn his 11th victory.
When play resumed in the sixth, Cervenak drilled a two-out solo homer off Odorizzi, and Bowman added a solo shot in the seventh off reliever Brandon Sisk, stretching the lead to 6-0.
Dan Jennings worked three scoreless innings, and Rob Delaney struck out two in a perfect ninth to complete the Zephyrs' league-leading 12th shutout of the year.
Odorizzi (10-3) took the loss, allowing five runs on seven hits in six innings.
The Z's and Storm Chasers play the fourth game of the five-game set on Saturday at 6:35 p.m. Right-hander Elih Villanueva makes the start for New Orleans, facing Omaha righty Nathan Adcock.