Left-handers Mike Kickham and Justin Nicolino turned in stellar pitching performances, and New Orleans swept a doubleheader from El Paso on Sunday to win the series three games to one.
The sweep was the first for New Orleans since Aug. 9 of last season vs. Memphis. The Baby Cakes (43-70), coming off an 0-8 road trip, won their fourth consecutive home series.
“The guys played well, and we pitched well,” Baby Cakes manager Arnie Beyeler said. “Because of the rain, we had to play two doubleheaders, but our guys went out and got it done.”
Rain postponed games Thursday and Saturday, necessitating in doubleheaders Friday and Sunday.
Kickham (1-1) allowed four hits in six innings in the first game to get his first win in five starts since June 30 while with Double A Jacksonville. Nicolino (5-5) scattered five hits in six innings, striking out six.
In the first game, the Cakes scored all four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Brandon Barnes' two-out, two-run double off the right-field wall. In the second game, New Orleans scored three runs in the third inning on sacrifice fly balls by Brian Anderson and Christian Colon and Ramon Cabrera's RBI single.
The rain caused some moments of anxiety for Chihuahuas manager Rod Barajas.
El Paso started the series against the Cakes five games behind first-place Salt Lake and two games back of second-place Albuquerque in the Pacific South Division. Entering Sunday, the Chihuahuas were four and one games behind.
With less than a month left in the season, the Chihuahuas — the defending Pacific Coast League champions — know there's no time or games to waste. And, they were playing against the team with the worst record in the PCL, even though the series didn't work out in El Paso's favor.
“We need to play baseball games,” Barajas said. “Obviously, we're behind a little bit; there are a couple of teams ahead of us. We're close, but you're not going to make up any games if you don't play.”
El Paso reached the Triple A World Series last season with four players now starting for the parent San Diego Padres. At one point this season, all nine Padres starters were starters for the Chihuahuas last season or this season.
“Last season, we took off about a third into the season,” Barajas said. “We have a whole new team now. But hopefully we can get back to the postseason.”
Former LSU and St. Paul's High School standout Ryan Schimpf hit three home runs in the series, including one in the top of the seventh Sunday that prevented a Cakes shutout. In three games, he went 3-for-7 (.429) with four RBIs, five runs, three walks and just one strikeout. He increased his batting average from .213 to .222. … Cakes outfielder/first baseman Chris Parmelee played last season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees), which beat El Paso 3-1 in the one-game Triple A World Series. Parmalee hit a three-run homer in the first inning and was chosen the game's MVP.