DES MOINES — Despite losing for the sixth time in eight games, Omaha inched a little closer to a third straight division title on Monday night.
Shortly after the Storm Chasers dropped a 2-1 decision at Iowa, New Orleans finished off a 1-0 victory over Memphis. That kept Omaha’s lead in the PCL’s American Conference North at two games with seven left to play in the regular season and reduced Omaha’s magic number — the combination of Omaha wins and Memphis losses needed to clinch the title — to six.
However, Omaha will likely need to win at least a couple more games before the season ends next Monday, particularly since third-place Iowa closed within five games by winning the first of the four-game series.
Omaha started well Monday, scoring in the top of the first inning. Irving Falu led off with a single but was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Johnny Giavotella’s one-out double. Giavotella took third on the play and scored on Ben Broussard’s RBI single.
But those three hits represented half of Omaha’s total, as Yoanner Negrin (4-6) settled in to pitch a complete game, walking one and striking out six. Negrin retired 16 of the final 17 batters of the game, including the last 10 in a row.
Omaha has had fewer than 10 hits for 14 straight games.
Danny Duffy, Omaha’s scheduled starter, wasn’t with the team and appears to be in line for another callup by Kansas City. Omaha officials said Duffy was picking up his passport — Kansas City starts a series in Minneapolis on Tuesday and then travels to Canada for a series in Toronto starting Friday.
Into the void stepped Justin Marks, whom the club had told just over the weekend that he’d be used exclusively in relief for the rest of the season.
Marks (6-13) pitched six strong innings, allowing two runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out five.
Iowa tied the game in the third on an RBI single by Edgar Gonzalez, then went ahead on an RBI double by Ty Wright in the fourth.
The series continues Tuesday at 6:35 p.m., with Omaha left-hander Chris Dwyer (9-10, 3.41 ERA) facing Iowa right-hander Justin Grimm (2-3, 4.86).