As Willy Taveras settled under Travis Buck's fourth-inning fly ball to left field, Omaha pitcher Chris Dwyer circled behind home plate to back up the potential throw.
“I thought, 'You know, Willy is the guy for this,” Dwyer said.
Sure enough, Taveras made a strong, one-hop throw home from perhaps 10 feet in front of the warning track in straightaway left, cutting down Yasmani Grandal at the plate for a double play.
Tucson managed to score one run in that inning, but Taveras' throw and a solid throw home by center fielder Paulo Orlando in the third inning that cut down another runner were the brightest of the defensive highlights behind Dwyer in Omaha's 5-1 win Thursday night.
“Plays like that are huge,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer wasn't too bad himself, shutting down a Padres lineup that had been roughing up the Omaha pitching staff while working a season-high eight innings before 5,927 fans at Werner Park.
The left-hander gave up six hits and walked three while striking out six.
Dwyer, who twice this season has left games with the lead and settled for no-decisions, improved to 4-2 while dropping his ERA to 2.83, seventh best in the Pacific Coast League.
“He's still not quite there yet — his fastball command has to continue to get better — but he's thrown the ball well,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said.
Noting Dwyer's ability to shut down the PCL's second-best offensive team, Jirschele said: “It's tougher to hit when you're throwing your breaking ball for strikes. They can't subtract that pitch (and focus on others).”
Christian Colon was 3 for 4 and drove in three runs to lead the offense. And Taveras and Orlando, who prevented runs with their arms, got the Storm Chasers started with back-to-back singles to begin a three-run third inning.
Tucson got a run back in the fourth as Rene Rivera doubled and scored on a two-out, check-swing single by Jonathan Galvez.
But prior to the Galvez single, Taveras made his terrific throw.
“I didn't think it had a chance,” Taveras said. “But it was a catcher running. I'm glad it stopped a run from scoring.
“The ball was slicing, and I was coming forward. I got a good grip and I just let it go. You're always happy when you can help the pitcher.”
Orlando showcased his arm from center the previous inning, fielding Daniel Robertson's single and making a one-hop throw home to cut down Mike Wilson, who tried to score from second.
“I was just trying to do my job, got the ball and got a good release on the throw,” Orlando said.
It was the fifth assist of the year for Taveras and the fourth for Orlando.
Anthony Seratelli made a diving catch on Rivera's low liner in the sixth inning, and first baseman Xavier Nady ended a seventh-inning threat with a nice backhanded stop on a well-hit ball by Dean Anna.
“One key tonight was our overall defense,” Jirschele said. “Our defense hasn't helped our pitching lately, and tonight we had a good defensive game.”
Said Taveras: “Dwyer is looking beautiful. And we played great defense behind him. If you pitch to contact like he did, you rely on your defense.”
Omaha extended its lead to 4-1 in the sixth as Seratelli doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch by former Chaser Sean O'Sullivan. Colon's seventh-inning ground-rule double made it 5-1 and capped an 8 for 16 series that jumped his average 28 points to .263.
“I'm starting to get positive thoughts in my head, and I'm feeling pretty good up there,” Colon said.
The Chasers salvaged a split of the series and finished the homestand 4-4. They are still a game behind Memphis in the PCL's American Conference North.
“We won the first game and we felt like we let the other two get away,” Colon said.
STORM TRACKING: Kansas City sent down reliever Kelvin Herrera to Omaha and called up Louis Coleman from the Omaha bullpen. Coleman was 2-1 with a 1.03 ERA and three saves while striking out 30 in 261⁄3 innings and holding opponents to a .211 average. In parts of four seasons with Omaha, the right-hander has compiled a 2.22 ERA while striking out 11.6 per nine innings. Herrera, known for his 100 mph fastball and who starred as a Kansas City setup man last season, is 2-4 with a 4.87 ERA for the Royals thus far in 2013. … Chasers officials said a memorabilia auction for Oklahoma City-area tornado relief raised nearly $6,000.
CORRECTION: The two remaining “Ticket replay” nights for Omaha Storm Chasers games are June 3 and June 18. The dates were incorrect in some of The World-Herald’s Thursday editions. Unused tickets from the Chasers’ first three homestands can be exchanged for tickets of equal or lesser value for those games. The replay dates were instituted in response to the cold weather earlier this season.
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