Bad luck seemed to follow Chris Dwyer during the season as rain delays and postponements made it tough to maintain a regular start pitcher's routine.
"If it was going to rain this summer," Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said, "he usually was the starter."
Dwyer pitched for the Storm Chasers on Tuesday night and, like clockwork, everybody wound up soaked. This time, however, the precipitation was limited to the Storm Chasers' clubhouse as Omaha team celebrated with champagne and beer after edging Durham, 2-1, to claim the Triple-A Baseball National Championship.
Dwyer, the Royals' No. 11 prospect, retired the first 20 batters he faced. His bid for a perfect game was spoiled when Tim Beckham's ground ball snuck through the right side of the infield with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Beckham, who had been stellar for the Bulls during their postseason run, took second on a wild pitch but was stranded as Dwyer fanned Vince Belnome for his eighth strikeout.
The strikeout was Dwyer's last pitch of the night. He allowed just the one hit and did not issue a walk over seven innings, marking his first outing without a free pass since June 13 -- except for a rain-shortened two-inning start in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. Dwyer allowed a run on three hits in his only other postseason appearance before Tuesday.
"Sometimes when you have a lot of rest, it can hurt you," Dwyer said. "Sometimes it can help you, too, because you can rest your whole body.
"I had like nine days off and then just those two innings that were rained out and then I had a few more days off until this start, but I felt great. I was throwing my [side sessions] in between. I knew everything would be on if I relaxed and did my thing."
The Boston native was coming off a strong run at the end of the year, albeit one tainted by control issues. He limited opponents to one earned run in three of his final four starts, but his command was iffy -- he walked 13 batters in his final two outings. Still, Dwyer managed to work into the sixth inning in eight of his last nine appearances.
"It's mechanical sometimes," Jirschele said of Dwyer's command. "Just his arm slot, he doesn't feel free and easy. Most of the time, he might go through that for a few pitches, then he makes the adjustment. Tonight, I never really saw him get out of it."
The outing was a rewarding one for Dwyer, who spent 2013 trying to rebound from a season marred by health issues, specifically a thyroid problem.
"He just kept going out there and he didn't have his fastball," Jirschele said of his 2012 struggles. "But he kept going right at people and challenging people and he battled through. It was outstanding to see him back at full strength and throwing the ball like he is."
"I knew I'd be fine and work hard and everything would hopefully turn around, and it looks like it," Dwyer added. "Just continue to work hard and do what I do best."
Omaha gave Dwyer a lead in the second when Lane Adams doubled and scored on Manny Pina's single up the middle. Adams, who finished 2-for-4, made his Triple-A debut in the PCL playoffs.
"I've seen a guy that can run," Jirschele said. "Offensively, he had a little short stretch there where he didn't swing it well, but he got himself back into it and started driving the ball. He's just a threat because you get him on base, he can take the extra base. He can steal bases and in the outfield he runs it down, too."
The run was the first allowed by Durham in 30 2/3 innings, dating back to Game 2 of the Governors' Cup Finals against Pawtucket. It also snapped a scoreless streak for Bulls starter Jake Odorizzi, who hadn't given a run in 23 2/3 innings over three-plus starts.
Odorizzi, the Rays' second-ranked prospect, logged four innings and limited Omaha to a run on five hits with eight strikeouts. He logged 18 innings in the postseason, breaking Jeremy Hellickson's 2009 team record.
J.D. Martin followed Odorizzi and also worked four innings, yielding a run on fivehits.
The Bulls avoided the shutout in the eighth when pinch-hitter Leslie Anderson homered off reliever Michael Mariot. Durham threatened in the ninth, but Zach Jackson came out of the bullpen and struck out Belnome with two men on.