Confronting a 2-0 series deficit and having gone 14 innings without scoring a run, Triple-A El Paso manager Rod Barajas saw no signs of panic from his club.
So when Franchy Cordero homered to give his team its first lead of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series on Friday night, the 42-year-old skipper figured it was a sign of things to come.
He was right.
Cordero hit a solo shot, singled and drove in two runs as five Chihuahuas pitchers combined to blank Memphis, 3-0, in Game 3 of the best-of-5 Finals at Southwest University Park.
The Redbirds still lead series, 2-1, with Game 4 on Saturday in El Paso.
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"He has all the tools," Barajas said of Cordero. "He's got elite speed and elite power. There are so many things he does at the top of the order. To have him doing that for us puts so much extra pressure on the opposing pitchers. There aren't many guys in all of baseball who has the tools he has."
El Paso found itself in a second straight scoreless duel as starter Walker Lockett kept Memphis off the board for five innings. Cordero ended the Chihuahuas' scoreless stretch in the bottom of the fifth with his first career postseason roundtripper. The Padres' 12th-ranked prospect drove in an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh followed by Chase d'Arnaud's RBI single.
Video: El Paso's Cordero blasts a solo home run
It was another strong game for Cordero, who went 2-for-3 and is hitting .375 with four multi-hit efforts in six postseason games. The 23-year-old batted .326 with 56 extra-base hits and 64 RBIs in 93 regular-season games and hit .228 in 30 contests in his Major League debut.
"When you end a scoreless streak like that, it tends to push things in the right direction and that's what happened with Franchy's blast," said Barajas, a former big league catcher. "Our offense has been struggling to put runs on the board, but that homer not only gave us the lead, it put us in the right state of mind. This was a game we needed and to finally get something going was great. Hitting is contagious, and I know everyone says that, but tonight showed that's exactly the case."
Lockett (1-0) allowed four hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Tim Melville, Adam Cimber and Trey Wingenter yielded two hits and two walks while fanning six over the next three innings before Kevin Quackenbush worked around a two-out walk in the ninth to record his first save.
"Our pitching's been great the whole playoffs," Barajas said. "They've attacked the zone and given us a chance to win virtually every time. Tonight was another example of that."
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Cardinals No. 23 prospect Ryan Helsley (0-1) started for the Redbirds and gave up one run on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings. Jeremy Martinez had two hits and No. 4 prospect Tyler O'Neill reached base three times for Memphis.