Garcia and Los Tres Amigos Deliver the Message
Ramon Garcia tossed five shutout innings and Los Tres Amigos combined to reach base nine times, score three runs, and knock-in two more, leading the AZL Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the AZL Athletics in Arizona League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.
With 18-year old Dominican OF Oliver Zapata, 18-year old Dominican INF Marco Hernandez, and 18-year old Venezuelan INF Gioskar Amaya hitting 1-2-3 in the order most everyday, Los Tres Amigos set the standard for the AZL Cubs on a daily basis, and today was no exception. Zapata (who leads the AZL in walks and is 4th in SB) walked three more times today, singled, stole a base, scored two runs, and knocked in another, Hernandez (who is 4th in the league in RBI and 6th in doubles) singled, walked, reached base on an HBP, and scored a run, and Amaya (who is 6th in the AZL in hitting) singled twice and collected an RBI.
In addition to the Big Day from the Big Three, DH Brian Inoa (a Man in Search of a Position) doubled twice, scored twice, and drove-in one run, and super-sub Gregori Gonzalez (who played 3B today) singled three times with two RBI.
19-year old Venezuelan RHP Ramon Garcia got the start for the Cubs and was masterful, throwing five shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four. He did all that on just 57 pitches (41 strikes), including throwing his first 16 pitches for strikes, something rarely seen in the AZL. Garcia probably could have continued well past the 5th inning, but AZL pitchers are limited to throwing five innings or 75 pitches (whichever comes first). Garcia is now 5-0 in AZL league play, and is tied for the league-lead in victories.
Cubs 2010 #1 draft pick RHP Hayden Simpson followed Garcia to the mound, entering the game at the start of the 6th inning. Throwing nothing but fastballs (as was also the case in his previous outing), Simpson had an easy nine-pitch 6th (striking out the lead-off hitter looking), before allowing a lead-off single and a one-out Miguel Marte RBI double high off the CF "Green Monster" (Batter's Eye), just two pitches after Marte slugged a near-HR down the LF line (hooked foul at the last second before clearing the fence). Simpson was then removed from the game, after having thrown 26 pitches (17 strikes).
While he throws only fastballs in games, Simpson does throw a breaking ball and a change-up when warming-up. But he apparently is so messed up right now, the Cubs feel he needs to go back to square one and just try and command his fastball (which he was able to do today, and with perhaps a bit more velocity than he has shown previously), before adding anything else to his in-game regimen.
You can tell somebody of concern is in the game when the Fitch Park Sports Psychologist is sitting on the bench, and a Special Assignment Scout is running the radar gun from the tower (hiding the readings from the players).
Cubs 2011 21st round draft pick LHRP Andrew McKirahan (U. of Texas) had another impressive outing, throwing 1.2 IP of shutout relief, getting four of his five outs on grounders and the fifth on a strikeout (swinging), while allowing just an infield single (swinging bunt). McKirahan is a polished, tested lefty reliever from a first-class D-1 program (he pitched in the College World Series last month), and so I would not be surprised to see him maybe get a "jump promotion" to Peoria in relatively short order.
2nd in defensive WAR, NL.
6th in NL in RBI
Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.