And Down the Stretch They Come!
The newly named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, Iowa's Ryne Sandberg, must be assembling his lineups at this point like Mr. Phelps uesd to put together his teams on Mission Impossible. The Phelps character would listen to the tape describing his task, should he choose to accept it, and toss 8x10 glossies on the table of the available personnel best suited to accomplish it.
Last night Sandberg was without Sam Fuld due to an injured foot in addition to all the horsepower already summoned to Chicago. His starting pitcher was Chris Carpenter, a touted prospect yet to throw well since his promotion to Triple A. The opponent was the Memphis Redbirds who arrived in town deadlocked with Sandberg's club for the top spot in the PCL American North. This weekend's games are the last four of the regular season.
Iowa scrounged a gutsy 4-2 win to nudge a game in front with three to play.
The I-Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first by bouncing three singles, the last of them by Jason Dubois, through the left side of the Memphis infield.
Carpenter, who was throwing 95+ in each of his six innings, got in a spot not of his own making after striking out the first batter he faced in the top of the 2nd. A grounder up the middle that Matt Camp couldn't field but Darwin Barney would have was scored a hit. It was an error. The next batter drooled one down the 3rd baseline; another hit that didn't deserve to be. A passed ball put runners at second and third. Carpenter was visibly rattled. A walk loaded the bases. But the kid got out of it when he induced a broken bat 1-2-3 double play. The first inning too had ended with a shattered bat grounder.
The game settled into a riveting pitching duel. Only the weenie race between innings broke the tension. That and Cubbie Bear, the apparently lovable team mascot. The crowd seemed more entertained by them than the game.
In the top of the 6th a tiring Carpenter walked Tyler Greene leading off on four pitches. With one out Allen Craig tripled high off the wall in left-center to tie the game and then scored the lead run on a sacrifice fly to right on which Brad Snyder made a sparkling catch. Craig's triple was the only true hit that Carpenter surrendered in his six innings.
The I-Cubs scrapped back to tie the game in the bottom of the 6th. Bobby Scales coaxed a walk with two down and nothing doing from Memphis starter Brandon Dickson. Chris Robinson managed an infield hit. Then both Camp and Ty Wright, pinch-hitting for Carpenter, walked after getting down 0-2 in the count. Dickson was yanked at this point and Jim Adduci flew out to leave the bases loaded. Of the seven hits Dickson allowed, six were well-placed bouncing singles.
After recent call-up Luke Sommer blanked Memphis in the top of the 7th Snyder came to the plate for Iowa with one out and nobody on in the bottom. Dickson had fanned him three times. But this time Snyder poled a towering blast out of the park off of Matt Scherer that RF Craig never took a step toward.
An insurance run in the 8th and a two-walk Jeff Stevens save later and the plucky I-Cubs had drawn first blood in the series.
Mitch Atkins goes for Iowa tonight. Jeff Samardzija is scheduled for Sunday and Jay Jackson on Labor Day in the finale. The I-Cubs need to win two of the remaining three to overcome a Memphis tie-breaker advantage and advance to the PCL playoffs.
So far so good.
I think the strike zone was very inconsistent, but it's hard to blame the loss on the ump. They had chances and mistake pitches and just couldn't cash in. Lackey ran the ball inside and outside very effectively.
Correct. Castro 5th, AJax 6th; I'll edit my lineup post to fix this.
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, Castro, AJax, Montero, Hendricks, Russell
if he put ajax 1st/2nd in the f'n playoffs he deserves to lose his nearly sure-thing MOY award to terry collins.
I believe Castro batting fifth, Ajax (LF) sixth
Maddon did not listen to me yesterday re Strop, or EricS on Schwarbs today.
Wtf is up w/that?!
Crunch got his wish - Ajax not hitting 1-2 in the lineup ...
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.