Juan Diaz’s opposite-field homer to left capped a five-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning and lifted New Orleans to victory Saturday night at Zephyr Field.
Diaz’s blast off former LSU pitcher Louis Coleman came after Omaha second baseman Christian Colon dropped a popup to short right field by Rob Brantly that allowed Josh Rodriguez to score from third. The play would have ended the inning with the Storm Chasers (55-51) leading 7-5.
Rett Varner pitched a perfect ninth to seal the win and end a four-game losing streak by the Zephyrs (54-53), who tied the series at a game each.
The Zephyrs’ rally answered one by Omaha in the top of the eighth. The Storm Chasers had snapped a 3-3 tie by scoring four runs on two doubles and three singles, including a two RBI hit by Paulo Orlando that capped uprising.
WHAT: New Orleans Zephyrs vs. Omaha Storm Chasers
WHERE: Zephyr Field, Metairie
WHEN: 4 p.m.
PROBABLE PITCHERS: Zephyrs LH Andrew Heaney (3-2, 3.68 ERA) vs. Storm Chasers RH Clayton Mortensen (4-2, 3.35)
BROADCASTS: WMTI-FM, 106.1; MiLB.tv
Omaha catcher Francisco Pena, 24, is the son of Tony Pena, who managed the Zs from 1999 to 2001, when he guided them to a Pacific Coast League co-championship.
“It’s always special coming back here,” said Pena, who is in his second season in Triple-A. “I remember as a kid, around 11 years old, shagging flies, taking grounders, the muggy heat.
“My mom and I would come here for two months during the summer from the Dominican Republic to be with my dad.”
Pena, a former top prospect with the New York Mets, signed with the Kansas City Royals as a sixth-year free agent in November hoping to get an opportunity to get to the Major Leagues quicker.
He is trying to make that happen with his bat. Pena is hitting .250 with 21 home runs, easily bettering his career high of nine with more than a month left in the season.
“I’ve learned to lay off the pitches the pitchers want me to hit and get the pitches I want to hit,” said Pena. “I think it’s just maturity.”
Like his father, Pena is known as a good defensive catcher with a rifle of an arm. He is considered attractive as Wednesday’s major league trading deadline approaches.
Pitcher Anthony DeSclafani rejoined the Zephyrs on Saturday after his third stint with the Marlins, which lasted six days without his having any game action. … Veteran right-hander Brad Penny is scheduled to make his third start Monday for the Zephyrs. However, he has a clause in his contract with the Miami Marlins that enables him to opt out by July 31 and become a free agent if things aren’t working out. … Center fielder Jake Marisnick had not gotten a hit in his past two games heading into Saturday’s game. Marisnick had a 14-game hitting streak before that, getting a hit in every game he played since being optioned to the Zephyrs from Miami on July 7. …. Omaha’s Carlos Peguero had a rare platinum sombrero, striking out in all five of his at-bats. Additionally, teammate Justin Maxwell struck out four times, a golden sombrero. … Former Jesuit High School and University of New Orleans standout Johnny Giavotella went 0-for-3 Friday but walked twice and scored a run. “Gio” has been a Zephyrs nemesis. In 18 previous games against his hometown team, he came into this series having batted .408 (29-for-71) with 16 RBIs, including 7-for-16 and three RBIs this season. He had gotten multiple hits in nine games. …