Omaha couldn’t finish off a potential sweep of Nashville, but adding a potentially productive bat to the lineup might help ease the sting of the missed opportunity.
Brian Fletcher was promoted from Class AA Northwest Arkansas and inserted into the fifth spot in the Omaha batting order Monday night, and the right-handed hitter drove in both runs in his Class AAA debut — with a sacrifice fly and a homer — in a 4-2 defeat before 4,101 at Werner Park
“There’s no doubt he can swing it,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said. “He’s got good bat speed and he’s got power, which he showed tonight. He’s definitely going to help our offense.”
Fletcher, 24, was hitting .314 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 52 games while batting third for Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
He’s also having a pretty good week.
Besides the promotion, he had a three-homer game that he finished with a walk-off blast last Tuesday, and he had a homer and four RBIs in his last game with the Naturals.
“I was real excited when I heard the news,” Fletcher said. “Having the opportunity to come up here is an honor.”
An 18th-round pick in 2010 out of Auburn, he’s the son of former big-league infielder Scott Fletcher. Jirschele said Fletcher would be in the lineup nearly every day, alternating between first base and designated hitter.
Fletcher missed about two months early this season after breaking a hamate bone in his wrist. When healthy, he’s hit an average of 22 homers per 144 games in his professional career.
With two of Omaha’s top hitters — Johnny Giavotella and Anthony Seratelli — out with injuries, and on a team that has no player with more than 11 homers, Fletcher could provide a much-needed power threat.
Fletcher’s first-inning sacrifice fly came with the bases loaded and gave Omaha a 1-0 lead.
“He did exactly what he needed to do there, and he just missed that ball,” Jirschele said.
Fletcher led off the fourth inning with a homer against Aaron Laffey, tying the game 2-2.
“I’m just being patient, that’s the main thing, and trying to have good at-bats and not trying to do too much,” Fletcher said. “I was happy I was able to produce some offense, and hopefully I can keep that going.”
Laffey — the frequently waived and frequently claimed left-hander who is with his eighth organization in three seasons — survived a shaky first and pitched seven strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out one.
After Fletcher’s homer, Laffey retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced, including the last seven in order.
Max Ramirez drew a leadoff walk in the eighth against Johnnie Lowe, but pinch-runner Quintin Berry was picked off. Omaha had a two-out rally in the ninth against Jesus Sanchez, with two runners reaching base, but Irving Falu grounded out to end it.
Omaha starter Justin Marks (4-11) managed to give up just three runs in six innings, despite walking a Chaser season-high six and hitting a batter. He gave up five hits and struck out three.
“He struggled all night, but you know what, he battled and got through six innings,” Jirschele said. “He gave up three runs, but it could have been a lot worse.”
Still, in the victory-challenged American Conference North, the Chasers remained in first place as both Memphis and Iowa also lost. Omaha has a one game lead over the Redbirds, while the Cubs are two games back. Nashville is a league-worst 39-71 and is 14 games out.
Omaha hits the road for eight games, with four-game series against Tacoma and Salt Lake, the top two teams in the Pacific Conference.
“We’ll see where we’re at when we go out there,” Jirschele said.
STORM TRACKING: Jirschele said pitcher Yordano Ventura’s hamstring responded well, and though he’ll miss his next start, the right-hander could be used out of the bullpen before returning to the rotation. ... Jirschele said he hadn’t heard the results of the MRI on the hip of Giavotella, and said Seratelli’s ankle was improving and he could be back in the lineup soon. ...Omaha infielder Chase Lambin (calf) went on the disabled list. ... Omaha and Salt Lake share the PCL’s best record in July. ... Omaha turned a season-high four double plays.