9th Inning PH HR Drives Cubs to Victory
Richard Jones slammed a pinch-hit tie-breaking home run over the RF fence with one out in the top of the 9th, and the Cubs held-on to defeat the Angels 2-1 in AZ Instructional League action at Diablo Park Field #3 in Tempe this morning.
Jones, the Cubs 2009 9th round selection out of The Citadel, was drafted as a catcher, but his #1 attribute is raw power. In fact, after signing with the Cubs in June, Jones hit seven HR in just twelve games for the AZL Cubs (Mesa), before moving up to Boise. (Jones ended up tied for 3rd in the AZL in HR, while playing there only two weeks!). And remember, he did all that while playing in the AZL's huge minor league complex ball parks with 25-ft high fences, where it's almost easier to hit a triple than it is to hit a HR.
While Jones was a catcher in college, he appears more comfortable at 1B (or DH) But if he can remain a catcher, his value will be greatly increased, since power-hitting catchers who bat left-handed are always in demand.
Besides working on his defense behind the plate, Jones is also at Instructs to try and learn to make better contact at bat (56 K in 174 PA at Mesa and Boise combined in 2009).
Today's game was scoreless through five innings, before the Angels broke-through with a run off RHP Nick Struck (Cubs 2009 39th round pick out of Mt. Hood CC) in the 6th, on a walk, a sac-bunt, and an RBI double. (Struck dropped to the 39th round only because he was considered a virtual "lock" to transfer to the University of Hawaii, but the Cubs came up with some additional money and were able to sign him just before the August deadline).
The Cubs came back to tie the score in the top of the 7th with two outs, when Brandon Guyer (yesterday's hero) lined a single to left (his second hit of the game), and scored on a near-HR RBI triple smashed high off the RF fence by Ryan Flaherty.
23-year old polished college LHP Chris Rusin (2009 4th round pick out of U. of Kentucky) got the start for the Cubs today, and he hardly broke a sweat, allowing just a lead-off bunt single in the 1st (and then he immediately picked the runner off), throwing just 15 pitches (12 strikes) combined over two innings of work. He was on the field maybe seven minutes.
RHP Chris Archer followed Rusin with three shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk on 43 pitches (26 strikes). while retiring the last five men he faced.
One of three pitchers the Cubs acquired from Cleveland for Mark DeRosa last off- season, Archer throws a 92-94 MPH fastball, a curve, and a change-up, and was 4th among Cubs minor leaguers in strikeouts in 2009 (trailing only Jay Jackson, Mitch Atkins, and Chris Carpenter). But he is at Instructs to work on his command & control (he led the Cubs minor leagues in walks in '09), and he has indeed shown some progress with his strike-throwing in his last two outings, allowing just one walk over six innings. Of course he also has only one strikeout in those six innings, but he's not down here to rack up the punch-outs. The Cubs already know he can do that. He's down here to improve his control and cut-down the number of pitches he throws per inning.
Today's game also featured three really nice defensive players by the Cubs, including a sliding catch of a pop up in short CF by 2009 #1 draft pick Brett Jackson in the 4th, a full-speed running shoestring catch by 17-year old Korean LF Kyung-Min Na on a pop up in short left-center in the 8th, and a probable game-saving running catch in RF foul territory (and then a flawless a spin & throw to 3rd to keep the base-runner at 2nd base) by 2009 2nd round pick D. J. LeMahieu with no outs in the bottom of the 9th.
LeMahieu played SS at LSU, but I think it's fairly obvious that the Cubs think that the athletic LeMahieu's future is at 2B. He has spent many hours at Instructs working with minor league infield instructor Franklin Font on his DP footwork from the second-baseman's side of the bag (which requires different footwork and an altered rhythm than is the case when turning the DP from shortstop), and hopefully he will take what he has learned at Instructs into the 2010 season, where he will probably begin the year at Daytona.
Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1a. Logan Watkins, DH #1: 1-3 (1B, L-9, L-1 DP)
1b. Richard Jones, PH: 1-1 (HR), R, RBI
2. D. J. LeMahieu, 2B: 1-4 (4-6-3 DP, 1B, F-9, L-8)
3. Brett Jackson, CF: 0-4 (F-8, F-8, F-8, F-7)
4. Brandon Guyer, RF: 2-3 (1B, F-8, 1B), R, CS
5. Ryan Flaherty, SS: 1-3 (F-7, 4-3, 3B), RBI
6. Michael Brenly, C-DH: 0-3 (P-3, P-6, P-8)
7. Jovan Rosa, DH-C: 0-3 (K, 6-3, K)
8. Matt Cerda, 3B: 1-3 (P-2, 1B, 4-3)
9. Justin Bour, 1B: 2-3 (1B, 1B, 4-3)
10. Kyung-Min Na, LF: 0-3 (F-9, K, L-6)
1. Chris Rusin - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 PO, 2/1 GO/FO, 15 pitches (12 strikes)
2. Chris Archer - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 4/5 GO/FO, 43 pitches (26 strikes)
3. Nick Struck - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 BALK, 2/2 GO/FO, 30 pitches (19 strikes)
4. Jose Rosario - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GO/FO, 15 pitches (7 strikes)
5. Steve Grife - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP, 2/1 GO/FO, 18 pitches (9 strikes)
Michael Brenly - 0-1 CS
Jovan Rosa - 1 PB
WEATHER: 70's & overcast first-pitch, then mostly sunny by noon
In what was probably the last start for RHSP Jeremy Null at EXST
Intrasquad game this morning on Field #5 at Riverview Baseball Complex
4.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 2 WP, 1 GIDP, 5/4 GO/AO, 75 pitches (50 strikes)
Next stop is likely either South Bend or Myrtle Beach (TBD)
There does seem to be something funky about closers pitching in non-save situations -- they never seem to be as effective. But, to your point, there could not have been a save situation in that game, so why not use your best reliever?
Heyward getting the night off.
Grand Slammin' Sczcur in RF - La Stella batting 2nd
Your thought: don't pitch Rondon at all, since a save can't happen in extra innings at home.
Maddon's thought: might as well pitch him now, because there's no later.
It looked like the baserunner might have screened Russell some though it's still a play he should have made.
I wasn't thrilled with the use of Rondon in that situation. In save situations opponents have a 77 OPS. In non-save situations it's a 116 OPS. We had other relievers for that spot we could have used.
I'm not sure if it's his normal swing but it's obvious he can hit and he's always hit for power just not HRs so if it is his normal swing there's something else going on.
This article from spring training said he was trying to pull the ball a lot more:
Oh, thanks. I guess I should actually look at the schedule. Yay, 3-game road trip!
Good call, indeed. This ought to be a good series.
Sorry to nit-pick -- but the games against the Nats this week are at home.
Can't remember a worse weather-start to a season. Yuck.
Basically Russell booted a slam dunk DP grounder letting a run score. But he drove in the tying run in 9th. Just not their day, Rondon notwithstanding.
Didn't see the game, but it sounded like the Cubs gave away 2 runs with poor fielding. Bummer.
Well, it's been a fun diet of Reds, Brewers and Braves, but now the Cubs have to play real teams in May (Pirates, Nationals, SF, Cards and Dodgers) -- hope we are all still smiling when we wake up on Memorial Day.
He does seem out of synch. His body seems to start forward, then his arms sort of try to catch up -- if that's his normal swing, he will never hit for power. It's an all-arms slasher swing, but the timing seems off.
He is currently slugging .256 -- I realize the weather has been bad, but that's epically bad. Currently 92nd out of 94 qualified NL batters. Yikes.
Weird home stand -- 3-1, with 2 rainouts, vs. two teams that will lose 100 games. Feels oddly disappointing.
Miserable baseball weather all week -- hopefully better weather will get the bats going. Not just walking, but actually hitting.
That strike call on LaSterlla was terrible
I was hearing some talk that John Mallee is trying to change Heyward's swing. Wonder if that is lending itself to the slow start.
at least it wasn't a "nobody showed up" stomping.
anytime you wanna jumpstart your season would be nice, heyward.