Fans love minor league games, and minor league players love fans. The level of access and interactivity between the players and the fans in a minor league stadium is unlike anything you are likely to experience in the majors… certainly unlike anything you can experience at a similar price. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Bleacher Nation comments regular and Message Board denizen Katie.
If you haven’t treated yourself to a minor league game, you really don’t know you’re missing.
AAA – Iowa Cubs. 10 – 16
It was warm and the wind was blowing gently out to left, so naturally this game was a pitching duel that came down to the bottom of the ninth. New Orleans flinched first, and Iowa walked away with the 1-0 win.
Rodrigo Lopez started things off for the Cubs. He pitched three innings of one hit baseball, walking one and striking out three. Frankie De La Cruz followed with five innings of one hit ball with two walks and a strikeout. Blake Parker pitched the ninth and got the win. He also allowed a single hit and struck out one. Once again, the Iowa Cubs most likely to be called to help out the bullpen in Chicago demonstrated they are up to the challenge. If Sveum needs them, these three guys are ready to go.
For the Cubs offense things were a little less rosy. Luis Valbuena collected three of the Cubs’ six hits, and Anthony Rizzo added two more, including a double. It was Rizzo who finally scored the game’s lone run when he came home on a wild pitch in the ninth.
As for Sappelt, he was unfortunately hitless in four at bats. He was still awesome.
AA – Tennesse Smokies. 12 – 16
It was Star Wars night in Tennessee on Friday, and the Force was clearly on the side of the hitters. The Smokies and the Biscuits (yes, the Biscuits) combined for twenty eight hits in a game that was close to the end. Tennessee lost 8-7.
Dallas Beeler gave up a staggering eleven hits in his five innings of work, and that translated into six runs (only three of them earned). Marcus Hatley gave up another run on a hit and three walks in his inning of work before handing the ball to Casey Harmon for the final three innings. Harmon took the loss after allowing a run on four hits. That’s right, the player who arguably pitched the best all night was dealt the loss. Truly there is no justice in baseball.
And then we come to the offense and their combined twelve hits. Let’s break it down list style.
- Home Runs: Matthew Cerda, Justin Bour
- Doubles: Jonathan Mota, Jae-Hoon Ha, Nate Samson
- Two Hits: Logan Watkins, Michael Brenly, Cerda, Samson
The Smokies were a combined five for nine with runners in scoring position, leaving only six on base.
The defense had some nice plays Friday night as well. The Smokies infield turned two double plays, but the highlight was probably Jae-Hoon Ha cutting down a runner at the plate.
Zach Cates started the game, but only lasted three innings. He gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and left with a season ERA of 11.57. Joseph Zeller came on to pitch in the fourth and was promptly victimized by one of those only-in-the-minors events. He earned the loss despite giving up just one hit, a double, in his three innings of work. However, consecutive passed balls by catcher Sergio Burrell allowed that lone runners to score. I wouldn’t be too hard on Burrell, though. Zeller is a knuckleballer, after all.
Kyler Burke allowed just one run in his six good innings of work, but he left in the seventh with a couple men on base. Luis Liria relieved Burke, but he did not have his good stuff. Two runs scored in the seventh and Liria was credited with a blown save. Bryce Shafer, after collecting the final out in the eighth, earned the loss when Kane County manufactured a run in the ninth.
Marco Hernandez might be coming to life. He had two hits in this game, including a triple, and has now hit safely in three straight. Hernandez has been mired in a horrible start this season, one that has left his batting average a minuscule .136. For a switch hitter with the speed to bunt his way onto first, that is a stunningly low number. He was bound to break out eventually; hopefully this is the beginning of a hot streak.
Speaking of slumping hitters having good days, Taiwan Easterling was also two for four, drove a double, and stole his sixth base of the season. Like Hernandez, Easterling opened the season as cold as an ice cube on Pluto, but it looks like his bat is starting to warm up. The 2011 draft pick was surprisingly polished when he joined the Cubs out of college last season, and I do not doubt that he is a better player than his numbers show so far. Just how good he can be is still up for debate.