Box Score: Omaha 4, Oklahoma City 2
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Evaluate the pitching line of Omaha starter Ryan Verdugo and pick the number that stands out the most.
Runs — he gave up zero — are always the ultimate indicator. But a season-high eight strikeouts is nothing to complain about, either. And three hits allowed (in seven innings) draw high marks, too.
Notice also, though, that Verdugo issued zero walks.
“I think my stuff is getting a little sharper,” said Verdugo, who in his pervious five starts had walked between three and five batters. “I started off the season a little rough — with a lot of walks. Didn't walk anyone today — that's a positive.”
Behind Verdugo's impressive start, three RBIs from Clint Robinson and a home run by Anthony Seratelli, Omaha jumped to a four-run lead and held on for a 4-2 victory Friday night over Oklahoma City before 6,127 at Werner Park.
Verdugo (3-0) has picked up all three of his wins in his last four starts, during which the left-hander has compiled a 1.11 ERA while striking out 25 in 2413 innings.
For the season, opponents are hitting .176 against Verdugo, third-best in the Pacific Coast League, but his 19 walks was the second most in the PCL. Still, he didn't add to that total Friday while effectively mixing his pitches against a veteran RedHawks lineup.
“When you have as good of stuff as he has and you attack hitters, he's going to be successful,” said Robinson, the Omaha first baseman. “He was on point tonight.”
Verdugo, 25, came to the Kansas City organization along with pitcher Jonathan Sanchez in the offseason trade with San Francisco for outfielder Melky Cabrera. He'd always walked more than you'd typically like during his career — 4.5 per nine innings before this season — but his walk rate was at 7.0 per nine before Friday's start.
After staying in control throughout this one, he moved within range of the league's top 10 in ERA at 2.87.
“I was able to get ahead of hitters after the first or second inning, the guys made some really good plays behind me, and (catcher) Cody (Clark) and I were pretty much on the same page,” Verdugo said.
Coming off a 3-5 road trip that included three walk-off losses, Omaha opened a four-game series matching teams sitting in first in their respective divisions by winning its 11th straight home game and improving to 12-1 at Werner Park for the season.
Oklahoma City, hitting just .250 against left-handers and facing the first of four left-handed starters in the series, came to life against right-hander Ethan Hollingsworth, scoring a run in the eighth on a Brian Bixler single and another in the ninth on Scott Moore's third homer.
“We lost three walk-offs on the road trip, and they were games we really should have won,” Jirschele said. “Earlier we were winning those games, but we got into a little bit of a streak where we were waiting for something bad to happen to lose a game instead of going out and winning it.”
Robinson drove in three runs against RedHawks lefty Dallas Keuchel (4-2). Keuchel was trying for a PCL-best fifth win and saw his ERA, which had been third-best in the league, jump from 1.62 to 2.18.
“I had started speeding myself up against left-handed pitching on the road trip,” Robinson said. “Tonight I just told myself not to do too much, take what he gives me and do damage when I get a chance. Tonight it worked out.”
STORM TRACKING: Omaha outfielder David Lough extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a second-inning single. … Keuchel, while pitching for Arkansas, was the starter and winner in a 2009 College World Series game against Cal State Fullerton (former Nebraska coach Dave Van Horn's first-ever CWS win) and also got the victory with four innings of relief in a 12-inning win against Virginia later in the series.
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