TACOMA, Wash. — The PCL’s best pitcher in July was at it again Tuesday night. And it wasn’t Seattle top prospect Taijuan Walker, the two-time Futures Game participant.
Omaha veteran Brian Sanches pitched six shutout innings, allowing five hits while walking three and striking out five, to lead the Storm Chasers to a 4-1 victory against Tacoma.
Sanches, 34, has allowed three earned runs in 28 1⁄3 innings in July for a PCL-best ERA of 0.95. The right-hander with seven years of big league experience improved to 8-2 with a 3.17 ERA while working as both a starter and reliever for Omaha. The Chasers are 9-2 when Sanches starts.
Jesus Montero greeted Buddy Baumann with a homer in the seventh inning. But the reliever didn’t allow any other runs in his two innings and Will Smith worked a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two, for his third save.
Walker, considered one of the best prospects in baseball (he was ranked No. 5 among minor leaguers by MLB.com and No. 18 by Baseball America before the season), gave up four runs on nine hits in six innings while walking two and striking out four.
The right-hander dropped to 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA in five Class AAA starts. He’s now 6-8, 2.64 combined with his work in Class AA. For the season, he’s struck out 129 in 116 innings.
Omaha (54-57), which maintained its one-game lead over Memphis in the PCL’s American Conference North, scored two runs in both the second and fourth innings.
The second-inning runs were produced by a Brett Hayes groundout and a Gorkys Hernandez single. In the fourth, the Chasers scored on an Irving Falu single and a Christian Colon double.
Falu’s single was the 600th hit of his Omaha career, making him the second player (joining all-time hit leader Jed Hansen, who had 662) to reach the 600-hit plateau for the franchise. Falu had been tied for second with Rondin Johnson at 599 hits.
Falu, who finished 3 for 5 to improve his average to .257, also has a 20-game on-base streak, one short of the club’s season high set by Hayes from May 10 through June 1.
Omaha shares the best record in the PCL for July at 17-10, and pitching has had much to do with it. The Chasers' ERA for July is 3.23, on track to be the best compiled by any team in the league for a single month in 2013. Omaha pitchers struck out 10, adding to their league-best total.
Counting the completion of a suspended game, Omaha is 10-4 since the All-Star break and 19-10 since June 29.
STORM TRACKING: Infielder Johnny Giavotella didn’t make the trip with the team to Tacoma after having an MRI exam Monday (hip). ... Omaha hitting coach Tommy Gregg will serve in the same capacity for the Peoria Javelinas in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.