Though the order of their appearance was reversed from the norm, Kelvin Herrera and Danny Duffy still managed to pitch to the standards expected from two of the Kansas City organization's most electric young arms.
And that's big news.
Herrera, a mainstay in the Royals bullpen last year who has been sent to Class AAA to work on using all of his pitches, started and pitched the first three innings.
Duffy, a starter coming back from Tommy John surgery, worked the next 5 2⁄3 in relief.
With last-out relief help from Louis Coleman, they combined for a five-hit shutout as Omaha beat Iowa 3-0 Sunday in front of 5,287 at Werner Park, snapping a four-game losing streak.
“When I came to the ballpark today, I figured we were going to win,” Herrera said, smiling. “I thought we might throw a no-hitter … but they got a couple.”
Herrera touched 100 mph several times, threw 31 of his 49 pitches for strikes, and allowed only two hits, both infield singles — one of which came when he was late to cover first base. The right-hander didn't walk a batter and struck out one.
It was his second start of the series, with both coming after his second demotion of the season. After going 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA for Kansas City last year, the 23-year-old is at 3-5, 5.20 this season.
He's working on using his breaking ball more frequently, and Kansas City decided the best way for him to do that is by starting games.
“He looked a lot better with his command,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said. “His breaking ball isn't there yet, and he's got to continue to work on that. But he was down in the zone with his fastball, and I was happy with that.”
Duffy, a left-hander, touched 98 mph while allowing three hits, one on an infield single. He struck out seven and extended his scoreless innings streak to 12 spanning three outings.
“I was feeling really good,” Duffy said. “I was really happy with that outing, but I'm nowhere near satisfied with where I'm at.”
Duffy, 24, is slightly more than a year past surgery and was officially optioned to Class AAA last Tuesday, just before his last outing with Omaha — when he pitched five scoreless, two-hit innings for a win against Oklahoma City.
Sunday, though, was better.
“That's the best I've seen Duffy throw in a long time,” Jirschele said. “He used both sides of the plate real well. He was a little inconsistent with his breaking ball, but he threw some real nice ones. His change-up was good. His first-pitch strikes weren't real good, but for the most part he got right back into it on the next pitch.”
The velocity on Duffy's strikeouts: 96, 97, 98, 95, 98, 97, 97.
Coleman got the final out for his sixth save after Duffy issued a two-out walk in the ninth.
“Oh … that killed me,” said Duffy, who wanted to finish but at 87 pitches (52 strikes), had reached his limit. “I was lucky enough to be pitch-efficient with the defense behind me today. They played a great game. I was lucky to have the opportunity, but it slipped out of my hands.”
Iowa had one batter reach second base — that was in the first inning when Jae-Hoon Ha reached on an error and advanced on an infield single.
“It ended up working out pretty well,” Jirschele said of the pitching tandem.
Meanwhile the Storm Chasers' offense, which has struggled for a month, put up just enough to win — significant considering it was facing left-hander Brooks Raley.
Omaha had hit .228 against lefties for the season, but the Chasers scored two first-inning runs and added another in the second. The first-inning runs came on a bloop single by Anthony Seratelli, a switch-hitter who fisted the ball just over the reach of second baseman Tim Torres. Seratelli had been hitting .222 against lefties.
“The big hit was Seratelli's shot to right field,” Jirschele said, laughing. “But that was a good at-bat. He was battling. He got beat a little bit, but got enough of it to get it over the second baseman's head.
“It's not how hard you hit it, but where you hit it. Good hitters put the ball in play and make something happen.”
STORM TRACKING: Former Omaha cleanup hitter Xavier Nady, released Saturday to pursue opportunities elsewhere, signed with the Colorado Rockies and will report to Class AAA Colorado Springs. … Catcher Adam Moore (groin) was placed on the disabled list and catcher Manny Pina was promoted from Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Pina, who hit .234 in 85 games with Omaha in 2010 and 2011, was hitting .219 in 50 games with the Naturals. … Pina didn't arrive Sunday, so Omaha had 22 players in uniform – three below the league limit. … With a third-inning bunt single, Irving Falu picked up his 578 th career hit with Omaha, passing Luis de los Santos (1987-1990) for third in franchise history. … Iowa was trying to sweep Omaha in a series for the first time since June, 2008.