|© MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Storm Chasers' Cain delivers key hit09/13/2011 11:59 PM ET
By David Heck / Special to MLB.com
When Omaha's Lorenzo Cain popped up to the right side in the seventh inning, he thought he'd made the final out. Instead, came through with the Storm Chasers' decisive hit.
"It was a routine pop-up, but it kept drifting away from the [Sacramento] second baseman [Wes Timmons] toward the line," Cain said. "It fell in and David Lough was hustling all the way and was able to score. It was a weird play, but in the playoffs, you'll take it how you can get it."
Cain's hit and Lough's hustle put the Storm Chasers ahead for good as they edged the Sacramento River Cats, 3-2, in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series.
Cain finished the night 3-for-4 with a triple, bringing his average in five playoff games up to .522. Traded to the Royals in the offseason deal that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee, the 25-year-old outfielder batted .312 with 16 homers, 81 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 128 regular-season contests.
"I was just trying to stay locked in," Cain said. "The playoffs are a different atmosphere, so your focus is very high. The adrenaline's pumping. I stayed with my approach -- a line-drive hitter -- and I was able to have a good night tonight."
PCL Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza (2-0) also played a ke role in the win, allowing two runs on three hits over seven innings. After going 12-5 with a league-leading 2.18 ERA during the regular season, he's put together a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings in the playoffs.
"He's been big all year for us," Cain said. "He's been lights-out. To have him just continue to do what he's been doing all year was very big for us. We know if we can get a few runs for him, we're most likely going to get the win. It was the same thing tonight."
Kelvin Herrera came on in the eighth for Omaha and struck out two in two perfect innings to record his first postseason save.
Playing in their first Championship Series since joining the PCL 14 years ago, the Storm Chasers are two wins from the title. The championship would be Omaha's first of any sort since 1990 -- the last time the team made the playoffs -- when it won the Triple-A Championship as a member of the American Association.
"We've been grinding out this season," Cain said. "Triple-A is a tough place to play, but we all kept focused and have been picking each other up. Hopefully, we can just finish this thing out."
River Cats starter Graham Godfrey gave up two runs and scattered seven hits over six innings before Vinnie Chulk (0-1) surrendered the go-ahead run in the seventh.
Josh Donaldson homered and Chris Carter delivered an RBI double for Sacramento, which had won three in a row to advance to the Championship Series for the fourth time in five years.