The New Orleans Zephyrs hit seven home runs, scored 17 runs over the final three innings and generally made life miserable for the Omaha Storm Chasers for much of the 3 hours and 21 minutes it took to complete Thursday’s 22-6 ballgame at Werner Park. It was the most runs New Orleans has ever scored and the most runs an Omaha team has allowed since extensive records started being kept in 1988.
Matt Dominguez went 4-for-4 with two homers and five RBI, Ruben Gotay went 4-for-6 with a homer and six RBI and four other Zephyrs went yard as well. The power supply was plenty enough for veteran righthander Chris Sampson (2-0), who allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.
The night got off to an ominous start, when New Orleans led 4-0 after the first four batters of the game. Omaha starter Kevin Pucetas (4-2) loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter before serving up a grand slam to cleanup hitter Chris Aguila, putting the Chasers in an early hole.
After Omaha scored two in the first and one in the sixth on a Mike Moustakas homer to trim the score to 5-3, the 5,530 in attendance at Werner Park were witness not just to a baseball game but to the theater of the absurd. Relievers Blake Johnson (four runs in the seventh; one homer), Heath Rollins (six runs in the eighth, two homers) and Blaine Hardy (seven runs in the ninth, three homers) had no luck keeping the Zephyrs at bay, watching baseball after baseball disappear into the night – as well as into a stiff breeze blowing out to left all game long. Suddenly, instead of 5-3 it was 22-3.
Even the game’s finish was hard to fathom. With catcher Manny Pina and the Storm Chasers down to their final strike at 1-2 with two outs in the ninth, Pina reached to the outer half of the plate and softly dropped a single into right field. Jarrod Dyson also faced a 1-2 pitch, but snuck a liner up the middle into center, putting two aboard. Johnny Giavotella then launched a three-run homer – a late field goal, as it were – to make the final margin 22-6. After David Lough beat out an infield single, quarterback Drew Brees took a knee and New Orleans got out of town with the win.
The Storm Chasers and Zephyrs will play the fourth and final game of their series Friday night at Werner Park, with first pitch slated for 7:05. Lefthander Mike Montgomery, featured along with Moustakas and Giavotella on the front page of Thursday’s USA Today Sports section nationwide, will start for Omaha. He will be opposed by righthander Elih Villanueva of New Orleans.