Clay Mortensen spun six solid innings as Omaha survived a ninth inning rally to hang to defeat Round Rock, 5-4, Thursday night in the third of four encounters at Dell Diamond. The Storm Chasers improved to 60-46, becoming the second team in the league to reach 60 wins, and moved to within three games of division-leading Oklahoma City, which fell to Memphis, in the American Conference North. The three-game spread is Omaha’s smallest deficit in the standings since April 24.
Michael Mariot tossed a scoreless eighth inning for Omaha and carried a 5-1 lead into the ninth before two singles and a walk filled the bases with two outs for Chris Gimenez, who doubled to clear them and bring the Express within one. The right-hander then struck out Ed Lucas to end the game and sew up the Storm Chasers ninth win in their last 11 games and second of the series.
Round Rock tallied in the first inning for a second straight night when Hanser Alberto led off the frame with a double and scored when Ryan Strausborger followed with a base hit. However, the lead would be short-lived after Christian Colon delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single in the second to move the visitors in front for good and knock rehabbing Texas Rangers southpaw Derek Holland out of the game after 1 2/3 innings during which he yielded a pair of hits, walked one and struck out three. Brett Eibner opened the fourth with a double, moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored to make it 3-1 on a Francisco Pena ground out before Jose Martinez singled home two in the fifth to extend the advantage to four.
Mortensen permitted five hits, walked two and struck out five to earn the victory before Brian Broderick worked a shutout seventh.
The series wraps up Friday night with Omaha right-hander J.C. Sulburan taking the mound against Round Rock righty Anthony Ranaudo.