Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

tennessee smokies logoYesterday’s Double A game in Chattanooga is a good candidate for best game in the farm season this year. It had all the elements of a great minor league game. It also had all the elements of a pretty good baseball movie, should any of you fine folk be looking for ideas for a script.

First, there was the timing. Just days before the 2015 draft begins, the heroes of this game were a couple of guys taken in the 2014 draft. In fact, they were the only 2014 Cubs’ draftees to make it as high as Double A so far (even if one of them only reached that level yesterday).

Also, those same two players, during the game no less, were named the Cubs Player and Pitcher of the Month.

The story began not long before game time when the Smokies announced that Ryan Williams, last seen ruining batting averages in the Midwest League for South Bend, was vaulting over High A Myrtle Beach and joining Tennessee. That day. And he was starting.

On the road.

Against one of the best lineups in Double A featuring the best prospect in baseball.

With first place on the line.

Williams seemed immune to the pressure, though, as he sat down Chattanooga in order in the first. The second inning did not go smoothly, and before Williams escaped he had allowed three runs to score.

But… you remember that I said this would be a good movie script? You’ve seen baseball movies. When the new pitcher gives up a few runs, who immediately picks him in the next inning? Either the star of the team, or the catcher, right? In this case, it was both.

A couple singles and a walk loaded the bases for the designated hitter and Player of the Month Kyle Schwarber, and his two run single brought the game within a run. Then Williams’ catcher, who we are going to have to start taking seriously if he keeps this up, Willson Contreras, drilled a three run bomb to right field to spot Williams to a two run lead.

Williams went on to sit down Chattanooga in order in the third. And in the fourth. And, except for a lead off single to Buxton, in the fifth. He got the first out of the sixth before being lifted for Gerardo Concepcion.

In the seventh the Smokies pulled another surprise when they sent Corey Black, previously a starter, to the mound for his first relief appearance. He retired six straight, half of them on strikeouts.

Shortly thereafter the game was over and the Smokies were tied with Chattanooga for first place in the division.

Seriously, someone should be making a movie out of this stuff.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – Iowa fell into an early hole and could not recover. They lost 9-7.
Tennessee – The final in the Smokies’ novel-worthy win was 6-3.
Myrtle Beach – Myrtle Beach had the day off.
South Bend – The Cubs were looking good until a rough eighth inning derailed things. Ultimately they lost 9-5.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Carl Edwards Jr. (formerly C.J. Edwards) struck out 3 and allowed a run on 2 hits in 2 innings of relief.
  • [Iowa] Christian Villanueva homered for the 6th time in Iowa and finished 2 for 5 as the first baseman.
  • [Iowa] Playing third was Javier Baez. He walked and singled.
  • [Iowa] Rubi Silva finished 4 for 5 with a pair of home runs. He now has 5 on the year.
  • [Tennessee] The final line for Ryan Williams: 5.1 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K. He threw 83 pitches and induced 9 ground outs.

  • [Tennessee] Kyle Schwarber finished the day 3 for 4 and drove in half the Smokies’ runs. Willson Contreras walked in addition to his 5th homer, and accounted for the other half.
  • [Tennessee] Bijan Rademacher did not have a hit, but thanks to a pair of walks he scored twice.
  • [South Bend] Kevin Encarnacion stayed hot with 2 hits and a walk in this one. Jason Vosler also had 2 hits.
  • [South Bend] Gioskar Amaya hit his 2nd home run of the season.
  • [South Bend] Charcer Burks walked, doubled, and stole 2 more bases. He now has 15.

Other News

  • The Smokies now lead Chattanooga by a game in the win column, trail by a game in the loss column, and are tied in the standings. Tennessee has won the first three of this five game series, and now the action shifts north to the Smokies Stadium. Felix Pena and Ivan Pineyro will take the mound tonight and tomorrow as the Smokies try to claim first place out right. Unlike yesterday’s epic game, these next two contests will be on
  • I have two more draft databases to bookmark in advance of Monday. First is the Fangraphs Sortable Draft Board. This tool has a lot of players and a lot of ways to filter them to suit your preference. This might be the ultimate tool for finding out about left handed starting pitchers in the draft who are 6’4″ or taller (because, after all, you can’t teach height). You can read all about this database here.
  • Minor League Ball has now posted their ranking of the Top 400 prospects in the draft, many of them with short scouting reports. If the draft follows their rankings exactly (it won’t) then the Cubs first round pick will be Mike Nikorak, a very raw but projectable high school pitcher from Pennsylvania. My pick in this scenario, though, would probably be to toss the dice and take New York high school center fielder Garrett Whitely (ranked No. 12).
  • Filling in at shortstop for Iowa yesterday was Chris Valaika and Varonex Cuevas. Cuevas, who had been stashed in extended spring training (and thus was fairly close to the Cubs who were playing in Albuquerque), is a twenty two year old infielder who spent last season in Arizona and Boise. He is only on the roster because the Cubs were out West when they needed some backup; I don’t think he’ll remain with Iowa for the rest of the season.

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