By: Mike Rose
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– The Omaha Storm Chasers came into Innovative Field Tuesday night the hottest team in the International League (IL) and left with a series-opening loss to the Rochester Red Wings, 5-4. The Storm Chasers saw what was a league-high 11-game winning streak snapped by the Red Wings. Rochester was propelled by a strong season debut from Alex Call who was recently optioned down from the Washington Nationals. Call drove in and scored two runs to lead the Red Wings' offense. Jake Alu also came back up big once again with two hits including a double as well as scoring once and driving in a run.
"I think from top to bottom our lineup is just absolutely relentless and we have guys who can take it deep in a game and close it out so that's a pretty deadly combo," Alu said about what's allowed for the Red Wings' surge.
Call sparked the Red Wings offense early on. He worked a two-out walk in his first plate appearance and then showcased his speed game, stealing second. That set up Nomar Mazara to line a two-out single to make it a 1-0 lead for the Red Wings early on. Call, despite the demotion last week, is maintaining a positive outlook.
"It's the same game you just have to be ready and prepared to play. It's a grind. There are going to be ups and downs in baseball. No matter what you have to keep going and make adjustments and that's the name of the game. I think I'm in a good position now and just have to carry the momentum forward," Call said.
Following the early run a pitcher's duel broke out through the fifth. Wily Peralta twirled five shutout innings allowing two hits while walking three with four strikeouts. It was his fourth start of the season allowing zero earned runs and his first since a May 27 start against the Buffalo Bisons. Red Wings Manager Matthew LeCroy has liked the improvement he's seen from the veteran right-hander.
"He's just throwing more strikes. He knows how to pitch, he's a veteran. Hopefully, he continues to do what he can. I know he can help our big league team at some point if they need somebody. He's a true pro. He hasn't complained about being in AAA. He's done some stuff with (pitching coach Rafael) Chaves that has kind of helped him," LeCroy said.
On the other side, Alec Marsh was equally as impressive allowing just one run on four hits and one walk, striking out seven for the Storm Chasers. The bullpens, however, flipped the script of a pitcher's duel on their first appearances.
It started in the sixth with Odalvi Javier appearing for the Red Wings for the first time since June 3. LeCroy said Javier's appearance was planned coming into the day. The rust of his layoff was evident as he failed to record an out allowing three straight singles before walking in a pair of runs to put the Storm Chasers in front before exiting. Jose Ferrer came on mitigate the damage allowing an Adeiny Hechavarria sac fly and a bloop single from Angelo Castellano before escaping with the margin at 4-1 in favor of Omaha.
The Omaha bullpen endured similar struggles in the bottom half. Christian Chamberlain came on for his first career AAA appearance and after giving up a bunt single to Jake Alu, Call gave him a resounding welcome to AAA. He launched a two-run homer down the left-field line just inside the foul pole to cut the deficit back down to one.
The Red Wings completed the comeback in the seventh. Eight and nine-hole hitters, Drew Millas and Richie Martin, led off with back-to-back walks to flip the order over. Jake Alu delivered the game-tying hit on an RBI double. The eventual winning run crossed the plate during Call's plate appearance when he watched ball four sail to the backstop allowing Richie Martin to score and make it 5-4.
Despite the early struggles from Javier the rest of the Red Wings bullpen picked him up and slammed the door. After Ferrer finished off the sixth he followed with a scoreless seventh. He was followed by Tyler Danish and Gerson Moreno to finish off the win with clean eighth and ninth innings. It was Moreno's second consecutive save as he has seemingly become LeCroy's go-to option to close games out.
"He's been really good. He's got that swing-and-miss stuff and now his secondary pitches are starting to come together. He's throwing more balls that are close instead of uncompetitive pitches. I'm really proud of his progression and he for sure for me could go up if they (Nationals) needed somebody," LeCroy said.
The Red Wings (33-35) will look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Storm Chasers (34-33) tomorrow, June 20. Paolo Espino (3-2, 4.50) will start for Rochester while Max Castillo (2-6, 4.72) will start for Omaha with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 pm.