The Omaha Storm Chasers are sticking with what works. For example, in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, they sent Aaron Brooks to the mound.
"Just like last time, I wanted to go out and help the team be in a position to win," said the 24-year-old right-hander, who tossed eight shutout innings in the opener of the Storm Chasers' semifinal series. "Obviously, in the Championship, it's even bigger. It felt good to get the ball in Game 1 in again."
Brooks gave up two runs on four hits and a walk while striking five over seven innings Tuesday, giving Omaha the edge in a 6-2 win at Reno to kick off the best-of-5 series.
"I was getting ahead with every pitch, able to throw every pitch over for a strike," said the Royals prospect, who held the Aces hitless into the fifth. "When you can do that, it really helps you out. I wanted to let them swing the bat and get themselves out. Through the first few innings, and actually all night, I could tell the defense was behind me, so I just wanted to go out and throw strikes."
Danny Dorn dropped a single into left field to open the Aces' fifth, but Brooks recorded three consecutive ground-ball outs.
"I just tried not to worry about [the single]," he said. "It was cool enough to go that long without giving up a hit, especially against that lineup. They have some pretty good bats. I just tried to forget it and attack the next guy."
At the start of the sixth, Brooks lost an eight-pitch battle to Brett Jackson, who walks. He got D-backs No. 9 prospect Nick Ahmed to pop out and fanned Roger Kieschnick, but Andy Marte hammered a 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall.
"The walk, it was a close pitch, probably 50-50," Brooks said. "We'd been staying away from Marte pretty good tonight. I wanted to come inside to change things up on him and get ahead, but he was sitting on it for whatever reason. It wasn't as in as I wanted it, but it was in. You can't feel too bad about one mistake."
The Cal State-San Bernardino product surrendered a single to the next hitter, Mike Jacobs, and gave up a two-out knock to Blake Lalli in the seventh but otherwise stayed out of trouble.
Brooks (2-0) handed the ball to Kyle Zimmer for the eighth. A right lat injury limited the Royals' second-ranked prospect to 4 2/3 innings in six Rookie-level appearances during the regular season, but he threw a scoreless inning for Omaha in Game 3 of the semifinals. He was perfect for a frame against Reno, striking out the last batter he faced.
"I know right now with his rehab he's only allowed to throw one inning, but with that arm out of the 'pen, it's a no-brainer," Brooks said. "He throws hard and he's got really good stuff. It's been great to have him come out of the bullpen."
Cheslor Cuthbert, the Royals' No. 15 prospect, collected two hits and two RBIs, while Whit Merrifield was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.
Starter Clayton Richard (0-1) retired two batters and surrendered three runs on four hits and a walk for Reno, which hosts Game 2 on Wednesday.
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com.