If the best part of following the minors is getting to track the future of the Cubs, then the second best part would have to be catching glimpses of other prominent prospects as they wander in and out of the minor league schedule. One of the bigger names, and one that should be familiar to Obsessive Watch fans, was on the mound against Daytona on Monday night.
But every once in awhile, if you follow baseball closely enough, you’ll find remarkable dramas like the one that unfolded in Tennessee. One member of the Smokies not only had the best all around day we are likely to see this season, he may have had the best day of his career. No one could make up a script like this one.
Jay Jackson was less than impressive, lasting just five innings and allowing five of the Cardinals’ six runs. More notably, the recently promoted Frank Batista made his Triple A debut in this game. Batista pitched the eighth and ninth innings and seemed to have no problem with the more advanced hitters. He gave up two hits and struck out two. His season ERA, spanning both Double A and Triple A, remains at 0.00.
At the plate, Brett Jackson went 2 for 4 with a run scored and no strikeouts. He also stole a base. After a rough stretch in which he could not make contact, Jackson has now avoided striking out in five of his last six games. Anthony Rizzo stayed hot with two hits, including a double. Despite jumping out to a good start to the season, Josh Vitters has slumped badly. Over his last ten games he is hitting just .118/.167/.147. In that stretch he has two walks and six strikeouts. It will be interesting to see how well Vitters is able to make adjustments and get himself back on track. He has already shown progress at the plate by walking at a much higher rate this season than he ever has in his career.
A double (Elliot Soto), a triple (Logan Watkins), and a home run (Jonathan Mota) led to three first inning runs. An Elliot Soto triple in the fifth led to a fourth run, and the Smokies’ pitching almost made it stand up. When Chattanooga tied the game it took until the bottom of the twelfth before Justin Bour was able to single home the winning run.
Dallas Beeler did not have his best game of the season, allowing four runs on eight hits in five and two thirds. Alberto Cabrera, Kevin Rhoderick, and Marcus Hatley kept the Lookouts off the board through the end of the eleventh. In the twelfth, apparently low on pitchers in the bullpen, the Smokies sent left fielder Jonathan Mota (he of the first inning home run) to the mound. He gave up a hit but was otherwise perfect, setting him up for his first win of the season.
If you stay around baseball long enough you’ll see about everything, but I can’t remember ever seeing a game in which the starting left fielder hit a home run and was the winning pitcher. To top the story off, Mota was playing just his twelfth game ever in left field; he’s a career infielder. Not only is he the hero on the mound and at the plate, he spent the first eleven innings playing out of position. Stories like that are what makes baseball great.
Cates went one inning in his first start, three and third in his second, and made it through four in his third. In those four innings he gave up three runs on six hits. Joseph Zeller allowed a run in three innings before Larry Suarez let the game get away in the final two.
Offensively, Daytona was remarkably efficient; their two runs came on just three hits. None of those hits came in the four innings worked by Lakeland starting pitcher Jacob Turner, the top prospect in the Tigers’ farm system and a pitcher frequently mentioned (wishfully) in the Matt Garza trade rumors.
Starter Jose Rosario was not good in his five innings of work (9H, 5R, 2BB, 2K), but the bullpen kept the game close until the ninth. Luis Liria and Bryce Shafer combined on three scoreless innings before Austin Reed had a two run hiccup in the ninth.
Zeke DeVoss, Paul Hoilman, and Taiwan Easterling accounted for the Chiefs’ three runs and Wes Darvill reached base three times on a hit and two walks. History was made (in a small way) on Monday as Oliver Zapata was finally held hitless. He did earn a walk and steal a base, his third.