If you follow baseball long enough, you’re bound to see everything. In the case of the Iowa Cubs and the third inning on Monday, “long enough” might require an extended life span. While the Cubs were taking advantage of unusual plays, the Chiefs were riding power hitting and good pitching to a win of their own.
And assemble they did. The Cubs scored two unearned runs in the third off Martin Perez, one of the best left handed pitching prospects in the minors. With one out in the inning, Alfredo Amezaga and Tony Campana reached on consecutive errors. Campana then stole second, setting up runners on second and third. Brett Jackson walked. A fly ball by Edgar Gonzalez resulted in Amezaga scoring on the throw for the first run, leaving runners on first and second. And then something odd happened. Campana attempted to steal third, and Jackson either went along in a double steal or picked up a steal of his own when the defense melted down once again. Regardless, when the dust cleared Campana had scored, Jackson had stolen second, and the Texas Triple A team had yet another error in the inning. When Dave Sappelt smacked an RBI triple three innings later, the Cubs had all the runs they would need for the win.
Trey McNutt left after four pretty good innings. He did allow a run on four hits, but he really did not have a bad night. The bad night belonged to Jeffry Antigua who gave up a pair of two run home runs to Scooter Gennett; that put that the game out of reach.
The Smokies only gathered four hits all night, all of them in the eighth. Back to back doubles by Jonathan Mota and Juan Apodaca chased home a pair of runs, but by then the damage was done and the game was out of reach. Michael Burgess started the rally (and broke up the no-hitter) with a single; he later scored the Smokies’ first run of the night.
So who was the pitcher who held Tennessee in check all night? Well, it turns out that Tyler Thornburg is Milwaukee’s No. 4 prospect. The guy who hit the pair of two run homers (Gennett) is their No. 5 prospect. I think the Cubs may be seeing more of both these future Brewers.
Eric Jokisch broke the recent trend of low-K/low-WHIP starts across the farm system by striking out seven in his six innings of work. Unfortunately, he also gave up six hits, three walks, and four runs. He is now 0-2 on the season.
Greg Rohan tried to get the offense going. His three hits included a double and a solo home run, but the Cubs just could not turn any of their abundance of chances into a sustained rally.
Anyone uncertain about the value of the walk need look no further than Matt Szczur‘s start to the season. With his 4-5 performance on Monday, Szczur nearly doubled his total number of hits for 2012. His batting average now stands at a paltry .214. His OBP, on the other hand, is a very respectable .353. As a result of his ability to earn the free pass, Szczur has scored in several games in which he went hit-less. After Monday’s game he had scored eight times, compared to just nine hits. Without those walks Szczur would not get on base enough to score all those runs. Without those walks, Szczur is having a terrible season. Thanks to those walks, Szczur is one of the most productive batters on the team.
In his six innings of work Jensen allowed a solo home run, and that was about it. He struck out five, walked two, and gave up just three hits. Austin Reed and Jeffrey Lorick were equally effective in relief. Jensen is now 3-0 in three starts.
Rafael Lopez and Paul Hoilman both had two hits (both of Hoilman’s hits were doubles) and Oliver Zapata homered, but this night belonged to Ryan Cuneo. The Chiefs’ first baseman was 3 for 4 with a single and a pair of two run home runs. Both of his home runs came with two outs.
I believe I’ve mentioned Zapata a few times now, but most fans are probably not familiar with this guy. Oliver Zapata, a small (5’9″) switch hitting outfielder, is another product of the Cubs’ recent efforts in the Dominican Republic. Last season he split time between the Arizona Rookie League and Boise. His game looks to revolve around his speed (35 career SB) and his ability to get on base (.354 career OBP), but he has already shown a surprising amount of pop given his age and frame. He is just 19 years old, so I don’t think we need to expect him in Wrigley any time soon. That said, he is off to a good start. He is definitely a player we need to be watching.
[Brett: Although he's not playing in real Minor League games yet, it's worth noting that Javier Baez yesterday demonstrated why the Cubs may be willing to work with him through certain growing pains - the kid hit for the cycle in an extended Spring Training game. The plan, presumably, is for him to join Boise when the Low-A season starts in June, but you have to wonder whether his play - or an injury - could make the Cubs rethink that plan, and send him to Peoria.]