Omaha routs Red Wings to win Triple-A Classic

OMAHA, NEB. — OMAHA, Neb. -- Through the door that led from the clubhouse to the dugout and the Rosenblatt Stadium field, the Rochester Red Wings could hear the Omaha Royals and their 8,207 fans celebrating the Triple-A Classic championship Friday night.

Inside, the Red Wings attended to their own business. The minutes after their 9-3 defeat in Game 5 might have been the last they would have together.


As manager Greg Biagini did before the game, the Red Wings thanked each other for a memorable season -- 89 regular-season victories and the Governors' Cup championship.

"We had a great season," said shortstop Marty Brown, whose first-inning error helped the Royals to a 4-0 lead. "We have nothing to hold our heads down about."


"This is the first thing we lost all season," designated hitter Chris Hoiles said. "This would have been another nice step to make. It didn't happen."

Offensively and defensively, the Red Wings didn't play at championship level, either during the series or last night.

After one error in the Governors' Cup series, the Red Wings committed seven in the Classic, leading to five unearned runs. Brown mishandled a double-play ball in the first inning and the Royals scored four runs.

The Red Wings left 46 runners on base in the five games.

"We never got the big hit in the series," Biagini said.

Sometimes they never gave themselves a chance.

Last night, the Red Wings left runners in scoring position in the first and second innings before scoring in the third, but even that inning could have produced more than one run.

Singles by Donell Nixon and Hoiles put runners on third and first with one out against Daryl Smith (1-0). Leo Gomez grounded to the right of third baseman Thad Reece, who made a diving stop. Nixon scored, and Reece threw to second. Hoiles was safe, but overslid the bag and Tommy Hinzo reached back and tagged him. Instead of first and second with one out, the Red Wings had only Gomez on first with two out. Chris Padget ended the inning with a fly ball.


The Red Wings, 23-21 against the American Association during the season, were 1-4 against the Royals. They repeated that record in the Classic.

"We didn't gear ourselves for this," Biagini said. "We geared ourselves for the cup. This was not the team that won 89 regular-season games and won the Governors' Cup. But it doesn't take away from anything we did accomplish during the season because of that."

The Red Wings won the first game of the Classic, 4-3, then lost the next four by the combined score of 30-18.

Royals first baseman Russ Morman was responsible for much of that difference. The right-handed batter hit .571 with three home runs and nine RBI and was the unanimous choice as Most Valuable Player.

"I don't think I could have scripted this any better," Morman said. "Everything worked out. Not just for me, but for the ball club."

The Red Wings, who trailed, 4-0, after one inning, were in range in Game 5, trailing 6-3 going into the bottom of the seventh.


"We knew we couldn't count those guys out," right fielder Chito Martinez said. "They're capable of scoring and scoring a lot."

But with two out, Mike Loggins homered, the first of four straight hits and three runs off starter Brian Holton, as the Royals pushed their lead to 9-3.

Until Leo Gomez singled home Joaquin Contreras from second in the fifth inning, the Red Wings were 8-for-50 with runners in scoring position in the series.

Contreras began the fifth by reaching on second baseman Hinzo's fielding error. Hoiles singled him to second and Gomez blooped an RBI single to right. Hoiles moved to third and scored on Chris Padget's ground ball to cut the Royals' lead to 6-3.

Holton, 1-4 with a 9.19 ERA in nine regular-season games, had made one previous playoff appearance. The right-hander pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 3 of the Governors' Cup series against Columbus, allowing two hits, one walk and striking out six.

Holton needed some help in the first inning, which he didn't get.


With Paul Zuvella on first with one out (after Jeff Tackett threw out Loggins trying to steal second), Morman grounded a double-play ball to shortstop. Brown bobbled it and both runners were safe.

"It was right in my glove," he said. The utility infielder was at short because of Juan Bell's injury to his left eye and Shane Turner's sprained right ring finger. "I feel bad," Brown said. "That vTC was a routine ground ball. It happens to everybody."

Harvey Pulliam singled to score Zuvella, and Martinez hit a three-run home run for a 4-0 lead.

"We wanted to put the pressure on them, and that's what we did with the four-run inning," Martinez said.

Zuvella led off the third with a single and scored on Morman's double, his ninth RBI of the series. After Pulliam's ground ball moved Morman to third, Martinez drove him in with a sacrifice fly for a 6-1 lead.

"Whenever we seemed to get in trouble, we either made the pitch or someone in the infield helped out," Smith said. "You can't count the number of times we got the big play."