Francisco Pena, son of former Zephyrs manager Tony Pena, crushed a home run to left-center field in the 11th inning off reliever Greg Nappo, as Omaha won the series opener Thursday 3-2 at Zephyr Field.
Shortstop Miguel Rojas led off the bottom of the inning with a double but Omaha closer Michael Mariot got Reid Brignac on a fly out to left and struck out Cole Gillespie and Brandon Bantz.
The loss was the second consecutive for New Orleans (28-31) and its fourth in six games, all at home. The Storm Chasers (31-30) had lost three of their past four games.
The Zephyrs took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when catcher Johnathan Solano, batting .167, hit a hard grounder down the third-base line for a double, scoring Isaac Galloway and Juan Diaz.
Omaha tied the score in the sixth when third baseman Moises Cuthbert stretched a two-out hit down the left-field line into a double and left fielder Moises Sierra followed with a single.
Cutbert hit a solo home run in the fifth.
Right-hander Jarred Cosart, on a rehab assignment from the Miami Marlins, pitched 5 2/3 innings before being relieved by Jon Link when designated hitter Casey Kotchman hit a harad single to right after Sierra’s RBI single. Cosart allowed two runs on nine hits, struck out one and walked none. He threw 98 pitches, 62 for strikes.
When Zephyrs shortstop Miguel Rojas singled in the bottom of the first inning, it was his second consecutive game leading off with a hit. That came after he’d gone through a 1-for-27 stretch, perhaps a signal that he is pulling out of his slump.
There have been few problems with his glove, however. That was evident with a play he made that also came in the first inning. With two out and Omaha center fielder Paulo Orlando on third base, Cuthbert hit a hard grounder between shortstop and the second-base bag. Rojas went to his left, made a diving grab, then got up and threw out Cuthbert in a very close play at first, saving a run.
Rojas, who spent last season as a defensive resplacement with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has made several head-turning plays this season. More impressive has been his consistency. He leads Pacific Coast League shortstops in fielding percentage (.974) and has been in more double plays (40) than anyone at his position. He also leads shortstops games (49), chances (229), putouts (78) and assists (145).
FROM BRAZIL WITH GLOVE
After Rojas’ glove gem, he and second baseman Reid Brignac hit consecutive singles leading off the bottom of the first.
Zephyrs right fielder Cole Gillespie then hit a shot to center field that threatened to clear the bases. However, Orlando ran the ball down at the wall and made a leaping catch. It saved two runs, and the next batter, first baseman Derek Dietrich, grounded into a 3-6-3 double play.
Orlando, 29, is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. When he went up to the parent Kansas City Royals, he became the third Brazilian to play in the Major Leagues. The first was current Cleveland Indians catcher Van Gomes. The second was former Zephyrs pitcher Andre Rienzo, who was called up to the parent Miami Marlins on on May 23.
First baseman Dietrich was taken out of Thursday’s game after the bottom of the third inning with an apparent injury and replaced by Brandon Bantz. The double-play grounder was his only at-bat. The Z’s entered the game with catcher/first baseman Vinny Rottino out with a groin pull sustained while running to first base during the just-completed series against Nashville. … The Zephyrs went into the game with an 8-13 record against American League affiliates, including 3-5 against Omaha.