Brett Hayes probably didn't need to hit another clutch homer to cement his case as PCL player of the week.
But he did anyway.
Hayes broke a 3-3 tie with a sixth-inning home run down the left-field line Sunday, lifting Omaha to a 5-3 victory over New Orleans in front of 5,809 at Werner Park.
It was Hayes' sixth homer in the five-game series against his former team — and he played in only four of the five games.
“It was just an unbelievable series for me,” Hayes said. “I have no way to explain it. I've obviously never had a series like that.”
Hayes extended his career-high home run total to 17, wrapping up a series in which he went 6 for 14 — all the hits were homers — with eight RBIs. For the week he was 8 for 21 (.381).
He had two-homer games Thursday and Friday — putting the Storm Chasers ahead in the fifth inning and cutting their deficit to one run in the seventh Thursday, then tying the game in the eighth and winning it in the 10th Friday. His fifth-inning homer gave Omaha the lead Saturday in the fourth.
“That's some good, clutch, power this series,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said.
Hayes is the first Omaha player to homer in four consecutive games since Cory Aldridge did in five straight in July and August 2009. He's the franchise's first with six homers in a series since Craig Brazell did it in a four-game series in May 2007.
And a little over a week ago, Hayes was available on waivers to any team with a big league spot open for him.
Kansas City had called up the 29-year-old when Salvador Perez was on the disabled list, but then designated him for assignment when Perez returned.
“I thought there was a chance we'd lose him if somebody needed a backup catcher in the big leagues,” Jirschele said.
In the ensuing week, Hayes went home to Dallas where he and his wife have just purchased a home.
Hayes said he played a lot of catch with his wife during his time on waivers while also working out a bit. He could have elected free agency after clearing waivers but instead accepted an assignment to Omaha.
“I wanted to come back here,” Hayes said. “These guys know me, and this is a great team here. And there's a possibility of going back up with these guys.”
The Chasers (67-69) maintained their two-game lead on Memphis in the PCL's American Conference North.
Spot starter Brian Sanches (10-2) benefited from Hayes' homer and became the PCL's sixth 10-game winner after allowing three runs — two earned — on six hits in six innings with no walks and four strikeouts.
Sanches continued his two-month stretch as perhaps the PCL's most effective pitcher. Since June 23 the veteran right-hander is 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA.
“He's been our best pitcher,” Hayes said. “He's had a tough role (shifting multiple times from starter to reliever). His ERA has slowly crept down, and it was only high in the first place because he wasn't used to starting early in the year.
“He's a battler, a professional pitcher. He knows what he's doing, and it shows.”
For the season, Sanches' ERA is 3.20, which would be third in the PCL if he'd pitched 10 1/3 more innings.
New Orleans edged in front 3-2 in the fifth on a two-run homer by Audy Ciriaco.
“One pitch to Ciriaco — and it was a decent pitch, Ciriaco just went down and got it,” Jirschele said. “Other than that, he wouldn't have given up an earned run.”
Omaha tied the game in the fifth after Quintin Berry and Paulo Orlando drew back-to-back walks to open the inning. Following an Irving Falu sacrifice, Christian Colon produced a run-scoring groundout.
That set the stage for Hayes to connect off Sam Dyson (1-3), who allowed five runs on seven hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out two.
“The season is a grind and it wears on you,” Hayes said, trying to explain his hot streak. “Maybe I needed a little breather.”
STORM TRACKING: Kansas City prospect John Lamb missed his scheduled start due to strep throat. At the earliest, he would pitch again Friday, Jirschele said. … Colon extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a seventh-inning single, matching Xavier Nady’s team season best. … Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez was hit by a pitch on a hand in the sixth inning, ran the bases and was replaced. His playing status will be determined Monday. … The Chasers had lost five of six games. … New Orleans, which has the league’s best pitching staff, could help Omaha as it returns home for a four-game series with Memphis. … The Chasers travel to play a four-game series at third-place Iowa, which is six games out.