The Omaha Storm Chasers started Sunday with the best record in the PCL, but when they’ve lost lately, boy, have they lost.
Another early-inning outburst from Iowa — a 7-0 lead after two innings — set the tone for a 10-6 defeat before 6,874 at Werner Park that really wasn’t that close.
It was similar to Thursday’s 9-3 Iowa win in the series opener, when the Cubs scored six runs in the top of the first inning. And it wasn’t completely unlike the April 20 game at Nashville, when Omaha trailed 5-0 after four innings and 11-0 after seven in an 11-5 loss.
One common thread: rough outings for starting pitchers.
“That sets the tone,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said.
The good news for Omaha is that the three blowout losses are its only defeats since April 16.
Even though a couple of Iowa’s four home runs were wind-aided and three unearned runs scored after a throwing error by shortstop Brandon Wood in the second inning, it wasn’t a good day for Ryan Verdugo.
Verdugo, the returning PCL All-Star who was 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 14 strikeouts and only two walks over his last three starts, gave up eight runs — five earned — on nine hits while walking four in 4-2/3 innings.
The left-hander didn’t use his slider much, Jirschele said, and as a result struggled against the five left-handed hitters in the Cubs’ lineup. Verdugo allowed them to go 5 for 13 with two homers. The eight runs and three homers allowed by Verdugo were both career highs.
“Verdugo had a poor outing,” Jirschele said. “He didn’t have command of anything. Too many deep counts. Just a bad outing.”
One Cub homer that wasn’t wind-aided was Ryan Sweeney’s first-inning, two-run shot to right, which made it 3-0.
It was the third homer of the series and sixth of the season for Sweeney, who went 7 for 18 with eight RBIs in the series.
Brett Jackson’s wind-aided, opposite-field homer made it 5-0, and a two-run single by Brian Bogusevic pushed the lead to 7-0.
Bogusevic, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games, later homered as part of a 3-for-4 day that completed an 8-for-14 series.
Wood’s two-run double got Omaha within 7-2 in the fourth, but Iowa’s Brett Lillibridge homered to lead off the fifth. Lillibridge finished a triple short of the cycle, going 3 for 4 to cap an 8-for-14 series.
Combined, Sweeney, Bogusevic and the right-handed Lillibridge went 23 for 46 (.500) over four days in Omaha.
Iowa (8-14) came into the series among the PCL’s worst offensive teams, but hit .287 with seven homers against the Storm Chasers’ second-ranked pitching staff.
“That is a good hitting club,” Jirschele said. “They’re going to be fine once they start going. They’ve got a potent offense.
“But the games they beat us up, it’s because we didn’t get ahead (in the count). If you get behind regularly against these guys, you’re going to get hurt. That’s what they did.”
Brooks Raley (3-2) pitched six innings, allowing four runs on six hits while walking three and striking out one.
Omaha’s Xavier Nady and Adam Moore each homered off Raley in the sixth to get within 8-4. But Bogusevic homered off Dan Wheeler to lead off the seventh and Ian Stewart drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 10-4.
“We struggled throughout pitching today,” Jirschele said. “These games you worry about whether or not you’re going to have enough pitching to get through.”
Omaha’s David Lough lined a 97 mph fastball by Rafael Dolis over the center field fence with two outs in the ninth to get the Chasers within 10-6, but Dolis got the next out to end the game. Lough extended his hitting streak to nine games, during which he’s hitting .512 (21 for 41), with three homers.
“He’s swinging it well,” Jirschele said. “As consistent as I’ve seen him swing it.”
» Storm Tracking: Omaha heads to New Orleans for a four-game series that opens at 7 p.m. Monday. Chasers right-hander Nate Adcock (2-1, 5.74 ERA) faces Zephyrs lefty Duane Below. Adcock will pitch on three days of rest after lasting just two-thirds of an inning Thursday. … Lefty Justin Marks will start for Omaha on Tuesday. Originally scheduled to open the season in the Chaser rotation, Marks wound up on the disabled list with a groin injury. He then made two starts for Class AA Northwest Arkansas, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA, striking out 12 in 11-1/3 innings. … Thursday’s starting pitcher hasn’t been determined. Brian Sanches will go on the temporary inactive list to return home, where his wife is expecting.
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