Over the course of two pitches, Xavier Nady saved the game and then won it.
The Omaha left fielder cut down the potential go-ahead run at the plate with a strong one-hop throw that ended the top of the seventh inning, and then led off the bottom of the inning with a first-pitch, opposite-field homer that gave the Storm Chasers a 3-2 victory Monday over Nashville on another brutally cold day at Werner Park.
“What he did in two pitches … he was the man out there,” Omaha pitcher Chris Dwyer said.
With Hainley Statia on second base after a walk and sacrifice, Ozzie Chavez singled to left. Nady fielded the ball cleanly and made a solid one-hop throw, and Statia couldn’t slide around the tag of Brett Hayes at the plate.
“You’re just trying to make a good throw, and with conditions like that, you’re just hoping to get a decent grip,” Nady said. “I just tried to get rid of it as quick as I could, and Hayes put a good tag on him.”
Nady then connected for his third homer of the season off Nashville starter Hiram Burgos, lifting a fastball on the inner half of the plate over the right-field wall.
“Wind helped that one a little bit,” Nady said. “Sometimes it blows in, sometimes it blows out.”
Dwyer turned in a solid seven-inning start and was the beneficiary of Nady’s heroics, picking up the victory as a result. The left-hander allowed two runs on six hits while walking three and striking out seven to improve to 2-1.
“I was keeping my change-up down and throwing some curveballs for strikes,” the left-hander said. “The main thing is getting ahead of hitters, throwing your fastball for strikes, then get to your offspeed.”
Donnie Joseph and Michael Mariot each pitched an inning, with Mariot earning his second save before 7,312 (paid) on Jackie Robinson Day at Werner Park. The 11 a.m. game started with a 37-degree temperature, a 29-degree wind chill and very light snow flurries.
“First time I’ve ever started a game in snow in professional baseball,” veteran Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said.
Burgos (0-2), Milwaukee’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2012 when he ranked third in the minors with a 1.95 ERA compiled on three levels, gave up three runs on six hits in 6 2 3 innings.
Omaha scored in the bottom of the first as David Lough hit a leadoff triple and scored on Johnny Giavotella’s one-out single.
But Nashville tied the game in the second on Sean Halton’s one-out homer, then went ahead in the third on an RBI single by Chavez.
Omaha tied it in the fourth on Giavotella’s first homer of the season.
Nady, the 34-year-old veteran, is hitting .310 while serving primarily as Omaha’s cleanup hitter. He played last year with both Washington and San Francisco — including playing for the Giants in the playoffs — with minor league stops in between.
He hit 25 homers and drove in 97 runs while splitting the 2008 season between Pittsburgh and the New York Yankees.
“He’s not real happy with himself yet,” Jirschele said, laughing. “But he’s not a young spring chicken any more, and this cold weather, I’m sure, is tough on him.”
Nady grounded into a double play in the first inning, then struck out on a curveball in the fourth.
“Both starters kept the speed of the game good and got quick outs,” said Nady, a California native. “When it’s cold like that, I think guys are more aggressive at the plate. You just want to get a hit and get out of there.”
Dwyer, a Boston native who has some cold-weather experience in his past, said pitchers just try to stay warm and stick to the game plan against hitters in the cold weather.
“When it’s cold like this, they don’t want to see the fastball in, so throw that fastball hard and get ahead,” he said.
Omaha won 3 of 4 in the series. Albuquerque comes to Werner Park for a four-game series that starts Tuesday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever started a game in snow,” Nady said. “It was a challenge, mentally, for everyone to get things going. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to get any better the next couple of days, so you’ve got to get used to it.”
STORM TRACKING: All Omaha players wore No. 42 and Brooklyn Dodgers-style jerseys to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day. … First baseman Chad Tracy (calf) was activated from the disabled list, taking the roster spot of outfielder Willy Taveras (temporary inactive list/paternity leave). … Omaha started Dwyer rather than Will Smith. Both started in a Wednesday doubleheader, with Smith throwing 84 pitches in five innings and Dwyer 90 pitches in six. … Omaha is 14-6 against Nashville at Werner Park. The Chasers are 23-4 at home in April over the past three seasons.
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