A Tie is Like Kissing Good Bye
Long story short, Mark Hamilton's solo homer with two out in the top of the 9th gave Memphis a see-saw 7-6 win over Iowa today that also advanced the Redbirds to the PCL playoffs and ended the Cubs' season. The teams deadlocked for their divisional crown with records of 82-62 and split their season series 8-8 but the playoff berth goes to the visitors on the basis of their superior intra-divsional record.
It was another pulsating game in a pulsating series. I would say that the umpiring left a little to be desired, not necessarily in terms of the accuracy of calls, but in the length of fuses. After all, these were two teams in a dead heat with 140 games down and four to go. Thicken the skins and stop tossing people in the early innings. More on that later.
For the second straight day the wind was blowing briskly out to left and was a factor.
Iowa starter Jay Jackson was shaky at the outset, loading the bases with one out in the first but escaping unscored upon. In the second he got himself in the same jam but wasn't so lucky this time. Tyler Greene was at the plate with teammates at second and third when he checked his swing on a 2-2 pitch. The plate ump called it a foul ball but Greene swore the pitch had hit him on the forearm. The plate ump asked one of his colleagues on the bases and he too said foul ball. But Greene must have shown evidence of a mark where the ball had struck him because he was suddenly waved to first. You know who, back in the dugout after yesterday's banishment, joined the conversation at that point but his brief and somewhat restrained argument fell on deaf ears and the game resumed with the crowd actually into the action on the field for a change. Alas, Jackson was nonplussed by now and became even more so when he lost the ruling on another checked swing that ensued on his first pitch to the new hitter. In the middle of his next windup the plate ump broke out of his crouch to eject someone inside the Iowa dugout who turned out to be Mitch Atkins. Another delay, after which Jackson completed a four pitch walk to force in a run. A sacrifice fly followed but Jackson finally made it back to the dugout trailing by only 2-0.
In the bottom of the inning back to back doubles by Bryan LaHair and Bobby Scales and a single by Robinson Chirinos, who had three important hits and dug a bunch of sliders out of the dirt behind the plate in my first look at him, tied the score and the game was on.
Jackson labored again in the 3rd, giving the lead back on a single to his counterpart as the bottom of the Memphis lineup got to him. The frame ended when Chirinos threw behind a runner at first to pick him off and a runner breaking from third was eventually tagged out trying to score in the confusion.
In the top of the 4th Scales made a great diving catch of a wind-blown popup down the line in right to start Jackson's first 1-2-3 inning of work. In the bottom of the frame Dubois led off with a prodigious blast to tie the score before Scales was safe on an error and Chirinos doubled him home to give the I-Cubs their first lead of the day. Jackson then doubled off the center field wall and I noticed Sandberg smiling and gesturing at the dugout railing while the Redbirds pow-wowed at the mound. He seemed confident.
When Dubois homered again in the 6th to put his team ahead 6-3 it looked bubbly for the home team. They had been overcoming leads throughout the weekend, not blowing them.
Jackson was removed after surrendering a leadoff double in the top of the 7th. Justin Berg came in and served up a run scoring single and a double that put runners at second and third with no outs. A grounder and a sac fly were all it took to tie the game from there.
While Iowa was failing to score in the bottom of the 7th and Memphis was being put down in order in the top of the 8th some kid with #28 on his back and nothing else [all the other players' names were on their jerseys] was nervously throwing in the Memphis pen. He took his nerves with him to the mound in the bottom of the 8th and walked Dubois on four pitches leading off. Better than allowing him the hat trick I guess. Then he fell behind LaHair and the dam seemed about to burst. Instead LaHair grounded sharply into a 6-4-3 double play with a 3-2 count even though Dubois was running on the pitch. The kid, whose name turned out to be Alan Reifer, was new in town, having come a running from Springfield after yesterday's 15 inning affair drained the Memphis relief corps.
Hamilton's dramatic homer made Reifer the winning pitcher in his first Triple A appearance, but not before the aggressive Chirinos hit the first pitch from closer Josh Kenney in the bottom of the 9th for a double and got stranded at third. While Reifer was working into and out of trouble in the 8th Kenney was making new friends by returning a cell phone dropped over the RF railing the way young ladies used to accidentally on purpose drop their hankies.
One minute 10,000 people were on their feet headed for the playoffs. The next, the season and the summer were over.
It took a long time for the parking lot to clear after the game. I didn't really mind the lingering.
Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?