Joe Martinez knows a thing or two about excelling in the Triple-A postseason. He applied that experience in a big way Friday night.
The 29-year-old right-hander struck out seven and allowed five hits over seven innings as Reno blanked Omaha, 3-0, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Pacific Coast League Championship Series.
The Aces need one more win to claim their first PCL championship. Game 4 is Saturday in Omaha.
Martinez (1-0) improved to 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five playoff starts at the Minor Leagues' highest level. A year ago, he was named MVP at the Triple-A National Championship after giving up three runs on six hits over seven frames for Columbus.
"I just really enjoy it," said Martinez, who was 10-11 with a 5.39 ERA in 27 starts during the season. "You can struggle a little bit during the regular season because it's long and things get dragged out pretty easily. Here in the playoffs, it's all about winning every time you're out there. I love being a part of that."
That was pretty clear at Omaha's Werner Park, especially Martinez's ability to record a big strikeout when needed.
After allowing a double to Royals' top prospect Wil Myers in the first, he got Clint Robinson to go down swinging on four pitches.
The Storm Chasers threatened again in the fifth when Irving Falu and Anthony Seratelli hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with two outs. This time, Martinez froze Myers on a called third strike.
Five of Martinez's seven innings ended with strikeouts, a statistic that he credited to a rapport with his batterymate.
"I was locating really well with my fastball and that's where everything kind of starts for me," said Martinez, who threw 67 of 103 pitches for strikes. "I have a lot of trust in [Aces catcher] Ryan Budde, too, and whatever he puts down, I'm going to throw. He has a good read on sequences and how to execute them in the right situations."
All three of the Aces' runs came in the third as D-backs' No. 7 prospect A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer off starter Nathan Adcock and Tyler Kuhn followed with a solo shot on the next pitch.
Reno relievers Sam Demel and Joe Paterson combined on a scoreless eighth inning and Jonathan Albaladejo pitched a perfect ninth for his second playoff save.
While the rest of the series will be played in Omaha, where the Storm Chasers were 44-28 during the season, Martinez suggested that neither side really needs an advantage with the stakes so high.
"I don't know, I'd say every game is important right now," he said. "Whether we're here or back at our place, home-field advantage only goes as far as making you feel comfortable off the field. We all have to go out there and play like it's our last game because soon it will be. We just can't think of it as being any advantage at this point."
Charles Brewer, who was 11-7 with a 5.99 ERA during the regular season, will pitch for the Aces on Saturday. Veteran Doug Davis (9-4, 4.66 ERA) goes for Omaha.