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Chasers offense supports strong outing from Ventura

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Omaha got what it needed in an 11-batter flurry.

In an eight-run fifth inning, Gorkys Hernandez had two doubles, two RBIs and scored twice, and Brian Fletcher hit a three-run homer as the Storm Chasers took a 9-0 lead on Sacramento.

They cruised from there with a 9-4 victory in front of 6,765 Friday night at Werner Park.

“That was our evening,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said of the fifth inning. “But we did a nice job, had some good at-bats. (Chris) Getz put down a nice bunt and we came up with some big situational hitting that inning.”

The Chasers (60-60) got back to .500 and extended their lead on second-place Memphis in the PCL's American Conference North to three games as the Redbirds lost twice.

Sacramento, which had entered the night with a one-game lead in the Pacific South, saw an eight-game winning streak snapped.

Omaha’s offensive outburst overshadowed a strong outing by pitching prospect Yordano Ventura, who turned in the best of his 10 Class AAA appearances, striking out nine in six shutout innings.

The hard-throwing right-hander, who hit 101 mph once and had several 99 mph offerings, allowed four hits and walked one — the first batter of the game. Ventura, 22, struck out the final three batters he faced and allowed only one runner to reach second.

He improved to 4-3 with a 3.62 ERA since joining Omaha. In his last four starts, he’s 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA.

“That was his best outing by far,” Jirschele said. “He pitched inside better with his fastball, and his breaking ball was sharp. He did a nice job.”

Ventura could rest easier after the big fifth, which Hernandez started with a double down the left field line against Andrew Werner (10-13).

Werner Park wasn’t Werner’s park — the left-hander gave up six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

With two runners on, Getz turned a sacrifice bunt into a hit and then Hernandez scored on the play as the throw by third baseman Daric Barton was wild.

Then Fletcher followed with his third homer in 11 Class AAA games, and his seventh in 16 games counting his work in Class AA. It was an opposite-field liner down the right-field line that made it 5-0.

“He’s got power to all fields,” Jirschele said. “And that’s one thing he has to work on — because at times he gets too pull-happy. So that was nice to see.”

After a Manny Pina RBI single, Hernandez capped the rally with a two-run double off Darren Byrd.

“I was looking for one specific pitch,” Hernandez said. “I was looking for a slider on the first double, and he threw me one right there. The second double he’d thrown me a fastball and a change-up and I’d swung, but it got to 2-2 and I said, ‘Be ready for a slider.’ And that’s what he threw me.”

The 25-year-old Hernandez, twice ranked among the minors’ top 100 prospects (in 2008 and 2009), is hitting .279 for the season and .300 in 16 games with Omaha since he was picked up by Kansas City in a minor league trade.

“He’s done a good job,” Jirschele said. “Defensively, he can run them down. He’s got a strong, accurate arm. And offensively he’s put together some good at-bats. At times he’s a little big (with his swing) with two strikes, but he battles. He’s a tough out.”

Despite welcoming back utility player Anthony Seratelli after a nine-day absence (ankle) and getting pitcher Ryan Verdugo (forearm) back for the first time since June 14, Omaha had some injury scares.

Ben Broussard left the game after being hit on the thumb by a fourth-inning pitch, and Fletcher and Hernandez both stayed in after colliding on a fly ball to left center that Hernandez caught in the eighth.

“He couldn’t hear me calling for it,” Hernandez said, “but the good thing is that I caught the ball.”

Verdugo, the 2012 PCL All-Star who had been rehabbing in Arizona, gave up three runs in his one inning of work.

“He’s just got to get the rust off,” Jirschele said. “He’ll be fine. He’s pitched here before and proved he could pitch here and have success. He just needs to get out there.”

Jirschele was coy about having Getz, on a major league injury rehab, pinch hit for Christian Colon in the third inning. Colon is fine, Jirschele said.

Getz “just needed some at-bats,” Jirschele said.

STORM TRACKING: Omaha utility man Anthony Seratelli returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a sprained ankle. … Ryan Verdugo, a 2012 PCL All-Star, pitched in relief for Omaha, his first appearance since June 14 because of injury. … Falu extended his on-base streak to 29 games by drawing a walk to leadoff the game. The streak matches the longest in the PCL this season and is the longest for an Omaha player since Alex Gordon's 39-game streak during the 2010 season. … Top Oakland prospect Sonny Gray, who had been scheduled to pitch for Sacramento on Saturday, was called up to the big league and will start for the Athletics instead. … Omaha will wear “Omaha Force” jerseys Saturday on “What If” Night. Force was one of the finalists when the team changed its name to Storm Chasers after the 2010 season.

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