Arismendy Alcantara and Matt Szczur drove in runs in the tie-breaking seventh inning rally that sent Iowa past Omaha, 4-3, Wednesday night in the fourth of five meetings at Principal Park. The Storm Chasers suffered their fifth straight loss to slip to 44-42 and three and a half games behind the Cubs in the American Conference North Division. Iowa has won 16 of the last 18 contests between the two teams on home soil since the 2012 season.
A looping two-out single by Ryan Kalish chased home Kris Bryant with the game’s first run in the second inning and marked the first time on the road trip that Omaha had not scored first. The Storm Chasers, who could not score with the bases loaded and one out in the second, took advantage of an error by Alcantara on what should have been an inning-ending double play ball, to push across their first run in the third on a bases loaded ground out by Paulo Orlando that plated Brian Bocock, who had started the rally with a walk.
The teams traded runs in the sixth, as Orlando doubled to drive in Matt Fields in the top half before Bryant’s double knocked in Javy Baez, who had also doubled. Iowa starter Chris Rusin lasted seven innings and was charged with those two runs, one earned, on eight hits while walking three and striking out three to earn the win. The southpaw is 5-0 with a 1.96 earned run average in seven career starts against the visitors. Omaha starter Ryan Verdugo yielded two runs on five hits over six innings while walking only one and fanning five and was not involved in the decision after being replaced in the seventh by Chris Dwyer.
Josh Vitters opened the decisive frame with a double, moved to third base on a Kalish ground out and stayed put when Eli Whiteside struck out. Alcantara then came through with his go-ahead triple, his league-leading 11th three-base hit, and scored when Szczur followed with a double off the wall in center field to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. Marcus Hatley took over on the mound for the Cubs in the eighth and saw his first pitch absolutely crushed for a home run by Fields that drew the Chasers within one. The right-hander then retired the next three hitters to end the inning and was followed by Blake Parker, who worked around a two-out walk in the ninth to earn his 18th save in 19 opportunities and sew up the hosts fifth consecutive victory.
The road trip and series wraps up Thursday night with Omaha right-hander Aaron Brooks getting the starting assignment against Iowa right-hander Dallas Beeler.