New Orleans came back from one-run deficits three times, taking the lead for good with a three-run sixth inning in completing the series sweep Sunday at Zephyr Field.
“We kept battling back, hustling,” manager Arnie Beyeler said. “We found ways to score runs and got some big hits, too. They’re playing hard.”
The Zephyrs (30-31), notching their season-high fifth consecutive victory, have won nine of 10 games heading into a four-game series Monday at Round Rock.
With the Z’s trailing 4-3, Isaac Galloway singled leading off the bottom of the sixth, and went all the way to third base on an errant pickoff attempt by reliever Matt Murray (1-1). Galloway beat the throw home after Kenny Wilson’s grounder to second against a drawn-in infield. After Robert Andino walked, Wilson scored on Elliott Soto’s single. Andino scored on a groundout to first by Destin Hood, pushing the lead to 6-4.
Raudel Lazo, who came in with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh, and Jo-Jo Reyes, who pitched the ninth, shut out Omaha (27-34) in 2.1 innings of relief.
Lead off man
Wilson, the Zephyrs’ usual leadoff hitter and Galloway, who sometimes leads off, are tied for second (18) in stolen bases. However, the Zephyrs struggled to score in losing seven of nine games in late May.
In the June 7 series finale against Colorado Springs, shortstop Andino, batting .237, with a team-leading 61 strikeouts and not blazing fast, was inserted as an unlikely leadoff hitter to get the Z’s going. The Zephyrs are 5-0 since the move.
“He’s a veteran guy who knows how to hit,” Beyeler said of Andino, 32, who has played 452 games in the Major Leauges. “He puts the ball in play and can do a lot of things.”
It marked the first time anyone other than Wilson (43 games) or Galloway (12) had been the leadoff hitter. However, Wilson had the lowest batting average (.163) in the PCL in May and Galloway also struggled.
Andino went just 4-for-17 with three walks in the five games, but he has scored six.
The series at Round Round is between two American Southern Division teams. The Express (Texas Rangers) are four games behind leader Nashville, with the Zephyrs eight games back. The Express won three of four in the first meeting May 6-9 at Round Rock, with three games decided by one run. “We’re beating teams by one or two runs, getting good pitching, playing defense and getting some two-out hits,” Beyeler said. The Zephyrs return home June 17 for a series against Oklahoma City. …The Zephyrs came into Sunday on a 15-game stretch in which starting pitchers had a combined ERA of 1.16, with opponents batting .168. In the first 10 games of June, including relievers, the pitching staff boasted a 1.38 ERA in 85 innngs. …An errant throw by left fielder Hood in the fifth inning Sunday gave the Zephyrs errors in consective games. Austin Nola’s fielding error in the fifth on Saturday ended New Orleans’ streak of errorless games at 12. It spanned 89.2 innings, going back to May 30 vs. Tacoma.