ALLENTOWN, Penn. — While it was Durham starter Jake Odorizzi who got the lions share of the media attention coming into the Triple-A National Championship game, it was Omahas Chris Dwyer who grabbed the spotlight with 6 2/3 perfect innings Tuesday night as the Storm Chasers beat Durham 2-1 to grab the victory in the one-game championship.
The Durham offense sputtered through the post-season, hitting just .214 as a team coming into the championship game, but their pitching has been able to carry them through the International League playoffs.
We have been able to win scoring just a run or two and our pitchers gave us a chance tonight, said manager Charlie Montoyo. It was a good game and a good crowd and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We had an outstanding season.
Montoyo had hoped to get five innings out of Odorizzi, but he had thrown 79 pitches through four innings and Montoyo knew that the Rays wanted Odorizzi to join them for the pennant stretch, so he opted to cut him short and go to Martin.
He got called up, so I wanted to be careful. He had a great year, said Montoyo.
Dwyers perfect game was broken up by Tim Beckhams clean single to right field on an 0-1 pitch. Dwyer then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Beckham to go to second, but rebounded to strike out Vince Belnome for his eighth strikeout of the night, keeping Durham off the board. Dwyer was lifted in favor of right-hander Michael Mariot after the seventh inning, having thrown 96 pitches in the game.
Beckham, who was also told after the game that he would be joining the Rays for the remainder of the season, felt good about his chances of breaking up Myers bid for a perfect game when he walked to the plate in the seventh.
I wasnt thinking about how well the guy was throwing. When Im at the plate, Im at the plate and I think I can hit the ball 500 feet, said Beckham. He was throwing a good game tonight, but I found a pitch I could put the barrel on and it found a hole.
Durham hitters were quick to credit Dwyer for how he pitched, but stressed that they thought they would get to him at some point and would be able to pull out a win.
He had a good fastball that got on you pretty quick and he mixed it up really well. He threw his fastball, he threw his change-up, he threw his curveball; hes a good pitcher, explained Beckham. Ill run into him again and Ill be ready to strap it up, baby. Lets go.
Omaha opened the scoring in the top of the second when Lane Adams doubled with two outs and Manny Pina followed with an RBI single for a 1-0 lead off Odorizzi. The Rays top pitching prospect lasted four innings, giving up one earned run, while striking out eight hitters.
J.D. Martin came on in relief of Odorizzi and got himself into immediate trouble, giving up back-to-back singles to Irving Falu and Christian Colon. Anthony Serratelli then bunted both runners up a base to put runners on second and third with one out. The Bulls brought the infield in and Ben Broussard dribbled a grounder to first baseman Vince Belnome, who threw home for the second out of the inning. Martin then got Rey Navarro to ground out to short for the final out of the inning with the Bulls down just 1-0.
Martin got the first two hitters in the sixth, but got into trouble with a two-out walk to Pina. Paulo Orlando delivered a base-hit and Falu delivered an RBI single, for an insurance run for Omaha.
Mariot appeared to be picking up right where Dwyer left off in the eighth, getting two quick outs. Durham manager Charlie Montoyo sent Leslie Anderson up to pinch-hit for designated hitter Shelley Duncan and Anderson quickly deposited a high fly ball well over the 18-foot tall fence in right field, cutting Omahas lead to 2-1. Mike Fontenot followed and hammered a ball right back at Mariot, who snagged it for the final out of the inning.
The Bulls made things very interesting in the bottom of the ninth. After Mariot retired the first two hitters, Cole Figueroa singled and Mariot then walked Beckham, putting the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first. Manager Mike Jirschele went to the bullpen and brought in left-hander Zach Jackson, who struck out Belnome to end the game and make the Omaha Storm Chasers the 2013 Triple-A Champions.
Figueroa finished the night 1-for-4 and credited the Omaha pitching staff for the job that they did against the Bulls, but said his team never thought the game was over.
We wanted to be patient and feel him out, because we hadnt seen him before. We saw that he could be erratic at times and throw some pitches away and give up some walks, but he was lights out tonight and had a really good game, said Figueroa. We hit the ball hard and they just didnt fall in and that happens, but they also had a few hard hit balls that we made good plays on, so that didnt have us concerned about the outcome.
For his part, Montoyo believes that the team he finished the season with was one of the best he has had as a manager. He believes that his players fought all the way through the season and saw them battle literally to the last pitch.
It was a great group. We had a good nucleus of guys from the beginning that all finished here in September, said Montoyo. It was a great group, possibly the best Ive ever had. Im very proud, it was a great year.
The clubhouse wasnt as somber as you might expect after the game. Perhaps Beckham summed up the reason why as best as it could be put. Were still champions. No matter what, were still champions.