Yes, You CAN Steal 1st Base!
Hak-Ju Lee used his blazing speed to beat-out a routine grounder to second with the game tied, bases-loaded, and two outs in the bottom of the 9th, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 5-4 victory over the Brewers in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon in Mesa.
The Cubs entered the bottom of the 9th trailing the Brew Crew 4-3, thanks to a two-run Brewer rally in the top of the 8th resulting from a Ryan Flaherty E-5 throwing error, followed by an RBI double and an RBI triple surrendered by Cubs reliever Eduardo Figueroa.
But the Cubs could not be defeated.
Kyler Burke led-off the bottom of the 9th, drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch, and Rebel Ridling followed by ripping a line-shot single to left, Ridling's third hit of the game. Jae-Hoon Ha then dropped a picture-perfect sac-bunt (the kind they practice over-and-over again with coach Bobby Dernier at Instructs), advancing the potential tying run to 3rd and the potential winning run to 2nd. The Brewers walked DH Justin Bour (who had two RBI hits earlier in the game) intentionally to set-up a force at any base or a possible game-ending DP, and the Brewers got exactly what they wanted when Kyung-Min Na slapped a one-hop bouncer to the third-baseman. But the throw home was rushed, bouncing past the catcher for an error, allowing Burke to score the tying run, and leaving the bags jammed with just one-out. But Jovan Rosa struck out swinging, setting the stage for Lee's heroics.
The 18-year old Lee (he turns 19 next month) received a reported $725K bonus (equivalent to "2nd round money") when he signed with the Cubs out of a South Korean high school in 2008, and he probably deserved it, as he was named the top prospect in the Northwest League last week by Baseball America. Lee hit 330/399/420, with a league-leading 25 SB and a league-leading 56 runs scored in just 68 games at Boise, and teamed-up with Hawks second-baseman Logan Watkins to form a deadly 1-2 punch at the top of the order.
On the negative side, Lee also committed a whopping 27 errors in those 68 games, but that problem has not been in evidence so far at Instructs. Just as with Starlin Castro last year, young shortstops Hak-Ju Lee and Wes Darvill (2009 5th round pick out of Langley, BC - Canada) and second-baseman Logan Watkins (2008 21st round pick out of Goddard HS - Goddard KS) have been paying attention to their coaches, as all three have played middle-infield defense with a steady hand for the past couple of weeks, showing off their talents without misplay. If anything, it's the guys with the Div-1 college experience (like Ryan Flaherty and D. J. LeMahieu) who have been shaky with the glove.
RHP Chris Archer got the start for the Cubs today, and fared much better than he did in his previous outing last week. Archer worked three innings this afternoon, allowing just one run on two hits (one of which was a lead-off triple to the first batter of the game), NO WALKS, and a strikeout, and all that on just 41 pitches (28 strikes). It took him 58 pitches to get through just two innings last week. Archer may be discovering that he doesn't have to strike out every hitter, that while maybe strikeouts are cool and sexy, sometimes making good, quality pitches and letting the offense get itself out can work, too, especially if it keeps the pitch count at a reasonable number that can get you past the 5th inning.
The Cubs tied up the game in the bottom of the third, on a lead-off walk to Bobby Wagner and consecutive one-out singles by Darvill and Watkins, Darvill lining his single to left (as he used the whole field instead of trying to pull everything) and Watkins bouncing his to right (no longer just trying to slap everything to the opposite field).
2009 4th round pick LHP Chris Rusin (U. of Kentucky) pitched the 4th and 5th, and allowed one run on one hit (a first-pitch lead-off triple in his first inning of work) in his two innings. (Seeing Archer and Rusin throw consecutively is probably like watching 2/5 of the 2010 Daytona Cubs starting rotation pitch back-to-back).
The Cubs once again tied-up the game, scoring a single run in the 5th on a lead-off single by Ha and an RBI double by Bour (although the lumbering Bour then got himself picked-off second with no outs).
2009 11th round pick LHP John Mincone (Suffolk County CC) and 20-year old Venezuelan RHP Hector Mayora (the only member of the Cubs two DSL teams who got a post-season invite to Fitch Park this year) pitched scoreless innings in relief, before the Cubs pushed across a run to take the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th, thanks to a one-out RBI single by Bour that knocked-in Ridling, who had led-off the stanza with a single.
Then the Brewers scored two runs off Figueroa to take the lead in the 8th, before the big Cubs rally in the bottom of the 9th.
I guess it's not very often that an infield single produces a walk-off "Shot Heard 'round the World," or at least heard 'round the neighborhood of Fitch Park... (or maybe that was gunshots?).
Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1. Logan Watkins, 2B: 2-3 (4-3, 1B, 1B, 3-U SH), RBI, SB
2. Ryan Flaherty, 3B: 0-4 (1-3, 3-6-3 DP, F-8, F-9)
3. Brandon Guyer, CF: 1-4 (F-8, 1B, F-8, F-8), CS
4. Kyler Burke, RF: 0-3 (E-6, F-7, F-8, BB), R
5a. Rebel Ridling, 1B: 3-4 (1B, F-8, 1B, 1B) R
5b. Pin-Chieh Chen, PR: 0-0, R
6. Jae-Hoon Ha, DH #1: 1-3 (K, 1B, 5-3, 1-4 SH), R
7. Justin Bour, DH #2: 2-3 (5-4-3 DP, 2B, 1B, IBB), 2 RBI, PO
8a. Bobby Wagner, LF: 0-1 (BB, K), R
8b. Kyung-Min Na, LF 0-2 (F-8, FC-E5)
9a. Sergio Burruel, C: 0-1 (K, HBP)
9b. Jovan Rosa, C: 0-2 (K, K)
10a. Wes Darvill, SS 1-2 (1B, L-4)
10b. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: 2-2 (1B, 1B), RBI
1. Chris Archer - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 BALK, 4/4 GO/FO, 41 pitches (28 strikes)
2. Chris Rusin - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 GIDP, 4/0 GO/FO, 35 pitches (21 strikes)
3. John Mincone - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 13 pitches (11 strikes)
4. Hector Mayora - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 16 pitches (10 strikes)
5. Eduardo Figueroa - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 21 pitches (15 strikes)
6. Steve Grife - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GO/FO, 14 pitches (seven strikes)
Ryan Flaherty - E-5 (throw)
Sergio Burruel - 1-1 CS
WEATHER: 80's, mostly sunny, VERY breezy
ATTENDANCE: 12 (not so many scouts today)