Cubs Roll a Big Five in 8th to Edge D-backs at Fitch
Javier Baez, Dan Vogelbach, and Rock Shoulders hammered back-to-back-to back doubles and Gioskar Amaya ripped an RBI single to cut the deficit to one, and then Gregori Gonzalez slammed an RBI triple to tie the score and scored the go-ahead run (eventual winning run) on a suicide squeeze play (pitcher threw a ball in the dirt and past the catcher), as the AZL Cubs rallied for five runs in the bottom of the 8th to edge the AZL Diamondbacks 5-4 in Arizona League action at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning in Mesa.
This was the final 2011 game for the AZL Cubs, who were eliminated from contention for the AZL Wild Card last Thursday.
Recently-signed 2011 draft-picks RHPs Michael Jensen and Tayler Scott made their second appearances in four days, and both looked sharp, each throwing two innings of one-hit shutout ball (although Jensen's one hit allowed was a two-out broken-bat single, while Scott allowed a booming one-out triple but the runner was left-stranded), with a combined 9/0 GO/FO between the two pitchers. Jensen threw 23 pitches (17 strikes) with a 4/0 GO/FO and two strikeouts (both swinging) in his 2.0 IP, while Scott threw 21 pitches (15 strikes) with a 5/0 GO/FO and one K (looking).
Jensen (who broke about three or four D'backs bats in his two innings of work) throws a fastball that tops out at 94 MPH and a hard slider, and reminds me a lot of Daytona RHRP and 2010 10th round pick Aaron Kurcz, and Scott throws an 89-91 MPH fastball and a slow curve.
Cubs #1 draft pick Javier Baez got the start at SS and batted 2nd in the order today.
He doubled off the top of the LF fence and then stole 3B in the bottom of the 1st, flied out to the warning track in CF in his 2nd AB in the 3rd, flied out to the warning track in LF in the bottom of the 5th, and then doubled off the top of the right-centerfield fence in his 4th PA leading off the five-run 8th. No question the kid has big-time power.
But Baez wasn't quite as impressive in the field, committing three careless errors at SS that resulted in three unearned runs scoring. While he made one nifty "no-look" back-handed stop & throw worthy of the Harlem Globetrotters in the top of the 2nd, and started a key 6-4-3 DP to help protect the Cubs one-run lead in the top of the 9th, he also bobbled two easy bouncers (one in the 6th and another in the 8th) allowing batters to reach base (both eventually scored), and then on one of the fielding errors he blew his cool, launching a totally unnecessary throw over the 1st baseman's head (the batter had already crossed 1st base) allowing the batter-runner to advance to 2nd base.
The 18-year old Baez is kind of cocky and a bit of a "hot dog" (like holding the ball an extra beat and then firing a rocket to 1st base, or trying to turn a routine play into an ESPN Sports Center highlight), and he is a bit chippy with the umpires, too. He does run OK and he is an aggressive base-runner, and while he looks like he enjoys playing SS, he probably does not have the range to stay there. He could eventually end up at 3B, or maybe even a corner OF spot (he appears to have the arm strength needed to play RF). However, the Cubs will probably leave him at SS for a while to help ease his adjustment to pro ball, since he obviously feels comfortable playing the position.
Cubs 2011 2nd round pick Dan Vogelbach played 1B and batted 3rd today, and handled himself well around the bag at 1st base. He also (once again) took an outside fastball and hammered it to the opposite field (into the LF corner) for an RBI double, driving in Baez for the Cubs 1st run in the bottom of the 8th.
DH Rock Shoulders--who struck out in each of his first three AB, looking totally lost trying to hit breaking balls and off-speed pitches--then put a hurt on a first-pitch fastball, pulling it down the RF line for a double to score Vogelbach from 2nd base.
2B Gioskar Amaya followed, lining a single to drive-in Shoulders from 2nd (the hot-hitting Amaya had two singles and a double today, as he went 17-32 over his final eight AZL games), before AZL Cubs supersub Gregori Gonzalez sliced a triple over the right-fielder's head to knock-in Amaya with the tying run.
And then with Carlos Romero squaring for a suicide squeeze bunt, G. Gonzalez scored the go-ahead run (what was the eventual winning run) on (technically) a steal of home, when the Diamondbacks pitcher threw the ball into the dirt and past the catcher.
Cubs 2011 18th round draft pick RHP James Pugliese pitched the 8th inning and struggled to throw strikes (20 pitches - only nine strikes), and despite allowing two walks and an unearned run, picked-up the win, and RHP Rafael Diplan threw a shutout 9th for the save (as the Diamondbacks left the potential tying run stranded at 3rd base).