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)
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.
9 pitches in and this game already rules.
HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).
...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.