A tense, tight three-game series unraveled, and then maybe the real drama unfolded.
Memphis scored seven 12th-inning runs — the first of which came without putting the ball in play — and beat Omaha 11-4 Monday before 5,042 at Werner Park to earn a series win and regain a share of first place with the Storm Chasers in the PCL’s American Conference North.
Two walks, a hit by pitch and a wild pitch resulted in Memphis taking a 5-4 lead and setting up the decisive final inning.
“Well, that’s what walks will do to you,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said.
When it was over, the Chasers didn’t worry as much about walking. They had to run — almost literally — to make it to the airport to catch a flight scheduled to take off 86 minutes after the final pitch of the 4-hour, 15-minute game.
The challenge wasn’t as much getting a travel party of 30 showered, driven across town and on-board in as much as it was getting the equipment bagged up, transported and checked.
A curfew hadn’t been set for the game, so it had become a matter of the team finishing it out and doing the best it could to get there.
“You’ve got to play it like it’s a regular game,” Jirschele said. “It’s just like when rain is coming. You can’t try to rush everything, that’s when things go to heck on you.”
Things fell apart anyway, after Donnie Joseph (1-1) walked Ryan Jackson and Jermaine Curtis, then hit Greg Garcia with a pitch to lead off the 12th. Curtis and Garcia were both trying to put down sacrifice bunts.
Jirschele brought on veteran Dan Wheeler, but his second offering skipped past catcher Brett Hayes for a wild pitch to score the go-ahead run. Then J.R. Towles lifted a fly ball to short center field that would have resulted in an out, but a rarity — sun — got in the way of Omaha center fielder Willy Taveras.
The ball landed for a double and a run scored to make it 6-4.
Then Adron Chambers doubled inside the bag at first to drive in two more runs. Two outs later, Oscar Tavares hit an RBI double, Brock Peterson singled and then Jackson hit a two-run double to cap a 20-hit day for the Redbirds.
Omaha’s Max Ramirez had tied the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off hard-throwing Eduardo Sanchez, going to the opposite field with a 94 mph fastball.
The Chasers had chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth after loading the bases with one out. But Jorge Rondon struck out Xavier Nady, and then Justin Christian ran down a drive by Ramirez in the gap in left center.
From there Memphis continued to run its collection of hard-throwing relievers at the Chasers. The Memphis bullpen, most of whom had impressive off-speed pitches as well, struck out eight in 523 innings, including six of Omaha’s final 10 outs.
“They’ve got a real good bullpen, a real good staff,” Jirschele said. “That’s what I’ve been saying. Their bullpen came in and held it right there for them.
“But we did have our chances. All we needed (in the ninth) was to hit the ball out of the infield (Nady) or to get a hit (Ramirez).”
Both Omaha and Memphis are 16-13. Two of the three games in the series went extra innings, and only two of the 31 innings ended with a team leading by more than one run. Memphis scored a run in the ninth inning of the opener for a 3-1 win.
With 13 games remaining between the teams, and with both teams’ major league clubs playing well, it stands to reason that more of the same is in store for the rest of the season.
“If both clubs stay the same, I think it’s going to be a dogfight between the two of us,” Jirschele said. “All three of those games were good games. But a lot of things can change.”
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