The Omaha Storm Chasers jumped out to an early lead against the Albuquerque Isotopes in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) American Conference Championship Series on Wednesday, September 5 at Werner Park in Omaha, thanks in part to a three-run home run by Kansas City Royals' prospect Wil Myers, and solid starting pitching from Jake Odorizzi.
They were able to hold off Albuquerque for an 8-4 win.
The Storm Chasers expected a battle against the PCL American South division champions, given that Albuquerque defeated Omaha in New Mexico in three of the last four games of the season. And they got what they expected, even though it looked like they might be on easy street after the first inning.
Myers, who ended up going 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs, a walk and a hit by pitch, crushed the first pitch he saw in the first inning over the centerfield wall -- a three-run shot -- giving the Storm Chasers a 3-0 lead.
"I was looking for a fastball," Myers told me and another reporter after the game. "He [starter
Fernando Nieve] actually hung a breaking ball there, so I was able to put a good swing on it and it happened to carry out."
Omaha manager Mike Jirschele was glad to see Myers, who was recently named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year as well as the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year, hit the ball out to center field. During the brief periods of time in which Myers has struggled this season, it was the result of him trying to pull too many pitches.
"That's the one thing he needs to continue to work on -- is driving the ball the other way and not getting too pull happy," Jirschele told us. "And he's working on it, he really is. In BP today he was hitting balls out that way the whole time."
The Chasers scored two more runs in the third inning, giving starter Odorizzi a five-run cushion. He held the Isotopes hitless through the first 3.2 innings.
"I had really good stuff early -- hitting all my spots, mixing pitches well," Odorizzi told us. "Everything went really well until they got their first hit, and even the hit was a good pitch. The defense played great behind me and ran some balls down."
Albuquerque began to claw their way back into the game in the middle innings. Josh Bard hit a solo home run in the fifth on a 3-1 offering from Odorizzi and Jerry Sands hit a two-run shot in the sixth on a 2-1 pitch.
"To Bard, we were up 5-0, all I was trying to do was throw a strike," Odorizzi said. "I aimed for the middle of the plate and tried to let him get himself out, but he hit a home run. And with Sands, I was trying to go in on him. I left it a little bit over the middle of the plate and his swing is made for right field."
Odorizzi threw 99 pitches and left the game after the seventh inning. He gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks, striking out seven.
"He threw the ball well, even at the end, but he made a couple of mistakes and this club can swing it," Jirschele said. "They've got some veteran guys over there. If you make mistakes, they will make you pay. And that's what they did."
The Chasers took a 5-3 lead into the eighth inning. Roman Colon came out of the bullpen for the Chasers and gave up a solo home run to Josh Fields, trimming Omaha's lead to 5-4. But Omaha scored three more times in the bottom half of the inning on a wild pitch and an error. Tommy Hottovy closed things out in the ninth, giving up a hit and a walk without allowing any runs.
Game 2 of the series will be played Thursday, September 6 at Werner Park. After that, the Chasers could potentially play three games against Albuquerque on the road in the best of five series.
"Any time you get the first win at home, or on the road, it's a big lift," Odorizzi said. "Especially at home -- you can't lose at home in the playoffs. It was nice to get out to a lead. Hopefully it'll carry over from there and if we can go into Albuquerque 2-0, everyone is going to have a great attitude. We would have three games to get one from them."
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