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.