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Chasers' rally falls short against Sacramento

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After being down by seven runs with nobody on base and only four outs left, an improbable Omaha rally had put the winning run on first, with the bases loaded, and two outs in the ninth.

And Gorkys Hernandez just missed.

The Storm Chasers outfielder sent a drive to deep left field that initially looked like it was going to be a game-ending grand slam. Instead was tracked down by Jake Goebbert about 15 feet from the left-field wall for the game's final out.

Sacramento survived for a 10-8 win Saturday night before a Werner Park crowd of 8,298 that was the third-largest of the season.

“He just got it off the end of the bat a little bit,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said of the Hernandez grand slam bid.

Omaha battled back from deficits of 7-1 and 10-3, nicking Fernando Nieve for two runs in the eighth on a Quintin Berry single that capped a two-out rally, and then making a serious bid against former All-Star reliever Hideki Okajima in the ninth.

Back-to-back singles by Chris Getz and Christian Colon started the inning, then Anthony Seratelli lined a one-out RBI double off the left field wall. Pedro Ciriaco's RBI single got Omaha within 10-7 and chased Okajima, and Seratelli scored on a Paulo Orlando groundout against reliever Paul Smyth that made it 10-8.

Pinch-hitter Max Ramirez was hit in the head with a breaking ball and then Berry walked to load the bases, putting the winning run on first and bringing Hernandez to the plate.

“I was happy with the way the guys battled to get it to that point,” Jirschele said. “To get one swing away from tying, or really winning, that game. ...”

Smyth picked up his first save.

Omaha starter Chris Dwyer was bound to have a bad night. It happens to everybody.

But with the Omaha bullpen down to, at best, four available pitchers, the Chasers' PCL All-Star might have had to stay on the mound a little longer than Jirschele would have preferred.

“We were trying to figure out how far we could get Dwyer through so that we had enough (pitching) to make it through (the game),” Jirschele said. “(Buddy) Baumann picked us up (with three innings) and got us through.”

But that wasn't until Dwyer, who struggled with his command, lasted just 3-1/3 innings, leaving after surrendering a three-run homer to Shane Peterson that dropped Omaha into a 7-1 hole.

“That was going to be his last hitter,” Jirschele said.

Peterson later added a two-run shot, capping a five-RBI game with his third homer of the series.

Omaha was short-handed in the bullpen as Kansas City called up relievers Will Smith and Donnie Joseph on Saturday.

Reliever Brian Sanches was unavailable because he's scheduled to back up Danny Duffy in an abbreviated Monday start — Duffy is being kept available for a potential start for Kansas City on Friday.

Also, somewhat unavailable was Maikel Cleto, who as of late Saturday night was the only reliever available to back up starter Everett Teaford on Sunday. After Cleto and Teaford, next in line Sunday would be utility infielder Chase Lambin, who has pitched once in his professional career.

Like most organizations, Kansas City guards against overusing relief pitchers. Yet the Chasers were in a big-time bind Saturday.

“You can push them a little bit if they have a quick inning, but we're not going to push anybody at this level and risk getting them hurt just to try to win a game,” Jirschele said.

Meanwhile, Sacramento starter Bruce Billings (12-5) was sharp, allowing two runs on five hits over six innings, increasing his league-leading win total.

He gave up a solo homer to Orlando to lead off the second inning and a sacrifice fly by Manny Pina in the fourth, but little else. Billings gave up five hits, didn't walk anyone, and struck out five.

Dwyer (8-10) gave up eight hits and walked four in his shortest start of the season that wasn't affected by weather, matching a season high with seven runs allowed and giving up a season-high six earned runs — matching the earned runs total he'd surrendered in his four previous starts combined.

The left-hander's ERA, which was fourth best in the Pacific Coast League going into the night at 3.28, jumped to 3.60. Only 48 of his 94 pitches were strikes.

“Didn't have a good night,” Jirschele said. “Lacked command and his velocity wasn't there. Just one of those nights where he struggled to throw strikes.”

Storm Tracking: Saturday was just the third time since the All-Star break that an Omaha starter had allowed more than three earned runs. … Kansas City also designated reliever Francisley Bueno for assignment on Saturday. Jirschele said Bueno is expected to return to Omaha on Monday. ... Omaha wore “Omaha Force” jerseys on “What If” Night. Force was one of the finalists when the team name was changed to Storm Chasers after the 2010 season. The jerseys were auctioned for charity after the game, with Duffy’s jersey fetching the highest bid: $350.

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