Marcell Ozuna hit a pinch-hit single in the bottom of seventh, scoring Jordany Valdespin with the go-ahead run, and Valdespin hit a two-run homer in the eighth, as New Orleans snapped losing streaks of seven games overall and 10 in a row at home Thursday.
“(Reliever Keith Butler) threw me a two-strike changeup, and I was expecting that,” Valdespin said. “It’s good to get a win. Even though we were losing, we didn’t have our heads down. We expected to win.”
Nick Wittgren pitched the final two innings, allowing only Nick Martini’s two-out solo homer in the ninth, as the Z’s (43-55) won for the first time since July 12 at Round Rock, before the All-Star break.
Memphis pitchers walked 10, including seven by starter John Gast.
The Zephyrs tied the score 4-4 in the sixth on Brady Shoemaker’s one-out single that scored Bradon Bantz from third and Austin Nola from second.
Nola, a former LSU standout, had hit a two-out single in the fourth and scored on Kila Ka’aihue’s single one batter later, bringing the Z’s to 3-2. The Redbirds, however, regained a two-run lead in the fifth on Xavier Scruggs’ RBI single between third base and shortstop.
For the second consecutive game, the Zephyrs took a 1-0 lead. They had gone 56 innings spanning seven games without leading in a game.
Haines keeping faith
Entering Thursday’s game, the Zephyrs had lost seven games in a row, 13 of their past 15 and a franchise-record 10 consecutive home losses. Haines was asked if he was concerned about his job security.
“It’ll briefly enter your mind, but as a good leader, you gotta get (those thoughts) out of there,” he said. “I just know and done it enough that any good leader doesn’t focus on himself.
“No manager or no player or no coach doesn’t go through a career and not go through a losing streak of six, seven, eight games, five games, whatever it may be. It’s just the nature of what we do.”
Haines said no one from the parent Miami Marlins has called with a vote of confidence or to voice displeasure with the way he has been managing or concerning the performance of the team, which has been struggling offensively.
“I haven’t heard anything from them,” Haines said. “We have a pretty good atmosphere as far as our development staff. When I’ve been through tough stretches. They’ve been more supportive than critical.
“Certainly in the big leagues, it would be on a much more magnified scale.”
A good debut
After Tuesday’s game, Zephyrs shortstop Nola made sure no one told him how his brother, Aaron, did in his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies that night. Nola had taped the game and was going home to watch it.
Aaron Nola pitched six innings, allowing one run on five hits, with a walk and six strikeouts in losing 1-0 to Tampa.
“I was impressed,” said Austin Nola, who has had 11 multi-hit performances in 23 games heading into Thursday, boosting his average to .341. “He did an unbelievable job. The most impressive thing was in the first inning, he gave up a double then came back and struck out the next two hitters and got out of it.”
With their careers taking place in different cities, Austin doesn’t see Aaron pitch much. Seeing the improvement of his brother, a first-round draft pick, was also impressive, he said.
“He keeps the ball down and for strikes,” Austin said. “He’s always pounded the (strike) zone. Now he throws pitches that all look the same. His change and his fastball, he starts them in the same spot, and the change just drops.”
The swelling in catcher/first baseman Vinny Rottino’s bruised right hand was down noticeably, but he did not start Thursday’s home finale against Memphis. Rottino injured the hand behind the plate in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game. On Wednesday, it was swollen, preventing him from playing. Haines said he was monitoring the injury. Rottino is batting .290. … The Z’s begin a four-game series at Nashville on Friday. They are 6-6 against the Sounds, including 2-2 on the road. ... In a story that appeared on July 15, Zephyrs All-Star closer Wittgren reportedly said he had ulnar nerve cancer before his first year at Purdue. Wittgren said Wednesday that he actually said he had ulnar nerve “transfer.”