OMAHA, Neb. - The Memphis Redbirds (15-12) defeated the Omaha Storm Chasers (15-12) by a score of 3-1in the opener of a four-game series on a cold, blustery night at Werner Park in Omaha. The teams are now tied for first place in the PCL American Northern Division. John Gast's Redbirds' franchise-record scoreless streak was over at 32 innings pitched on a third-inning RBI single by the Storm Chasers shortstop Christian Colon.
Omaha went after Gast immediately, with leadoff batter David Lough rapping a single to right to start the bottom of the 1st inning. Lough was picked off a few pitches later for Gast's fifth pickoff of the season. Gast worked a hitless 2nd inning, giving up a walk.
In the bottom of the third, the Storm Chasers opened the scoring and put an end to Gast's season-starting 32 consecutive shutout innings pitched streak. Gast walked the first batter, right fielder Irving Falu. After striking out center fielder Willy Taveras, Gast walked Lough. With runners on first and second, Colon looped a fly ball down the right field line, plating Falu. Gast would get out of the inning with two strikeouts. He then tossed a 1-2-3 fourth inning.
The score remained 1-0 until the top of the 5th inning when the Redbirds evened things up. Ryan Jackson led off with a line-drive single to right then Omaha starter Will Smith issued a pair of one-out walks to Chad Huffman and J.R. Towles. With two out, Justin Christian sent a bouncer to Storm Chasers' third baseman Brandon Wood that was misplayed for an error. Jackson came home, and the score reached 1-1 on the unearned run.
Gast worked around a walk in the 5th inning, his last. He exited with a no-decision (3-0), one run (earned) on two hits with four walks and five strikeouts, raising to his ERA to 0.26 on the season. Sam Freeman took over and faced the minimum in the 6th and 7th innings, surrendering no hits, striking out one, walking none and earning the win (2-0).
Smith finished his night pitching for Omaha without a decision (2-1), allowing one run (unearned) on two hits with four strikeouts and five walks in six innings pitched. Dan Wheeler came on in the 7th inning for a 1-2-3 frame. Wheeler would retire the only batter he faced in the 8th, leaving with three strikeouts and no hits, runs, or walks in 1.1 innings pitched.
The Redbirds would touch up Omaha reliever George Sherrill for the go-ahead run in the 8th inning, ultimately giving him the loss (0-1). Sherrill gave up a single to Kolten Wong, who stole 2nd base, forcing an intentional walk to Brock Peterson. Blaine Boyer came on to relieve Sherrill, who gave up one run (earned) on one hit with a strikeout and a walk in 1/3 of an inning. Boyer walked Jackson to load the bases and then with two out, walked Romak to force in Wong for Memphis' second run of the night.
Eric Fornataro pitched a hitless, scoreless 8th inning for the Redbirds, buoyed by two great plays from Christian in left field - a diving catch and a warning track grab on the run.
Memphis added an insurance run in the top of the ninth off Boyer. J.R. Towles led off with a walk, and then on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Greg Garcia, Omaha catcher Brett Hayes hit the base runner Towles with his throw to 2nd base. The error allowed Towles to score, closing the scoring at 3-1 in favor of Memphis.
Victor Marte came on to close for Memphis and picked up his sixth save of the season, striking out three on one hit.
The Redbirds and Storm Chasers face off for the second game of the series on at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday night. from Werner Park. Right-hander Michael Wacha (3-0, 1.86) takes the mound against left-hander Chris Dwyer (3-1, 2.56).