Sloppy defense has put the Oklahoma City RedHawks in a win-or-else hole in their Pacific Coast League semifinal series against Omaha.
Three RedHawks errors led to four unearned runs, the difference in the Storm Chasers' 7-4 win Thursday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Losing both games at home, the RedHawks trail the best-of-5 series 2-0. The series shifts to Omaha on Friday night for Game 3.
The RedHawks must win to force Game 4 Saturday night. If necessary, a winner-take-all Game 5 would be played Sunday afternoon in Omaha.
“You have to be able to catch the ball, especially this time of year,” said RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco. “That's something we've been pretty good at all summer. It's unfortunate. When you have a lead you have to catch the ball and make plays.”
RedHawks first baseman Jon Singleton slammed a monster home run to cap a four-run fourth that gave Oklahoma City a 4-2 lead. Omaha answered with five runs in the sixth.
The sixth-inning uprising began with one out when reliever Eric Berger issued a one-out walk to Rey Navarro. Shortstop Raoul Torrez failed to snag Paulo Orlando's high hopper that glanced off his glove for a double.
Torrez booted a routine grounder that allowed Navarro to score. It set the table for a big inning. Gordys Hernandez and Irving Falu followed with back-to-back doubles, Falu's hit driving in two. Ben Broussard's two-out RBI single capped the five-run inning.
Torrez, who also had an error in the second that led to an unearned run, spent much of the season in Class A before he was promoted to OKC in late August.
“That's what happens sometimes in the playoffs after the big league team calls up some of your guys,” DeFrancesco said. “Sometimes young guys, their first time in the playoffs, don't understand that every pitch matters, that you have to be focused. Jimmy (Paredes) has filled in nicely there.”
Outfielder Eric Thames, picked up off waivers by Houston, will be in the starting lineup for Game 3 Friday night in Omaha. Paredes will move back to short.
Bottom line is the RedHawks are in a 0-2 hole.
“It is what it is,” said center fielder George Springer. “Tomorrow is a new day. We just have to go out and play hard and whatever happens happens.”
Omaha appears to be pitching around Springer, a candidate for Minor League Player of the Year. In the first two games, Springer has drawn three walks and has two hits for a .625 on-base percentage.
“It's one of those things you have to have confidence in the guys behind you,” Springer said. “You have to be smart, be selective. If they don't give me something good to hit when I get on first base that can start a rally.”
Singleton provided the spark OKC needed with a long home run over the right-center wall in the fourth.
“I hit that one pretty good,” Singleton said. “The only one I might have hit better this season was one in Tucson.”
And the 0-2 deficit?
“We just need to go out and play good baseball like we did down the stretch,” Singleton said. “They got the jump, but the series is not over.”
The RedHawks posted the best record in the PCL (82-62). The season, though, will end in the opening round of the playoffs unless the RedHawks can win three consecutive games in Omaha.
“Winning three in a row on the road is one of the toughest things to do,” DeFrancesco said. “If we win Friday, then you go to Saturday and try to get to Sunday. We're capable of doing it, but you have to take it one game at a time.”