Jackson Two Really Can Say Goodbye
The weather on closing day was as perfect as it had been inclement on Opening Night. A full house was still trickling in at a leisurely holiday pace into the third inning. Enough came to nudge the season turnstile meter past the half million mark for the seventh time in the last eight seasons despite a last-place team that lost more games than it won for the first time since 2005 [for the record, the home slate was well above sea level at 40-31] and the loss of three dates, most recently on the Saturday night of a holiday weekend on the final home stand. Oddly, the franchise ended up setting an attendance record for a three-game series over the weekend, thanks in part to a rainout that nobody wished for.
A fickle breeze that heralded the change in seasons from summer to autumn and had the flags waving goodbye to the sun-splashed crowd also played havoc with airborne balls. Several were dropped including one that glanced off the glove of Lorenzo Cain and reduced the otherwise fine-looking Omaha centerfielder to Alfonsoandso; bopping him on the schnoz and allowing the eventual but still meaningless winning run[s] to score. Earlier, the Storm Chasers’ left-fielder, David Lough, wrestled a routine fly into his glove like he was lassoing a rhinoceros before dropping the equally routine one hit by the next batter. At that point he accepted a pair of shades relayed to him from the dugout. Iowa’s Marquez Smith snagged a pop fly near the stands and dropped one on the infield grass on consecutive plays an inning later.
On the concourse the scent of sunscreen mingled as pleasantly with grill smoke as season-ticket neighbors did with one another for the last time until spring again comes round.
Prospective wunderkind Brett Jackson opened the game with a home run before later drawing a walk and making a sparkling catch that was extra conspicuous in light of the aforementioned atmospheric conditions.
Having been followed out of the park by a foul ball during the first matinee of the year back in mid-April I decided to make a deliberate try to collect one as a bookend to the campaign. I went out to the parking lot behind the third-base side of the ballpark in between the top and bottom of the 2nd inning. The I-Cubs were retired without hitting one out of bounds, but in the top of the 3rd I heard a percussion just before a white speck appeared on the blue metallic roof of Principal Park. I played it perfectly and it bounced to me as obligingly as a room service double play ball does to the shortstop. Omaha DH Clint Robinson banged 23 homers this year to go with the one foul ball he hit my way [on the next pitch he singled in his 100th RBI of the year, tying the game temporarily at two].
Jay Jackson was one inning shy of his seventh consecutive quality start when he was pulled after five solid innings. Cain’s misfortune in the bottom of the 5th, which was in addition to having already been hit by a Jackson pitch, did at least make Jay the winning pitcher.
The I-Cubs began the season with only three players on the roster age 24 or younger. On Monday there were 11 from that demographic in the home dugout up against the division-winning and playoff-bound visitors from the Royals’ fertile system. Reinforcements seem to be spurting from the farm like water from an uncoiling hose, although LeMahieu at 23 was the only one of the 11 among the Cubs quartet of call-ups. We are left to hope as many will spray all the way from Des Moines to Chicago as from Omaha to Kansas City. Gordon, Duffy, Hosmer and Moustakas? There are more where they came from.
The scoreboard reported that Iowa won, 7-2. But it also posted this grimmer news - next home game: April 5 vs. Round Rock.
BONUS: Bryan LaHair stands to reap an additional $7,600 from the 38 homers he tagged in 2011. Not only did he break the franchise record of 37 set by Joe Hicks in 1984, he will collect $200 per roundtripper as the recipient of the Joe Bauman Award, bestowed annually upon the top homer hitter in the minor leagues. It’s as though each one equates to a lap around the Monopoly board. LaHair is the first I-Cub to win the honor. Bauman, you may or may not know, hit six dozen IFO’s playing for Roswell, N.M. in 1954 [and drove in 228 runs!]. Folklore holds that every time he hit one at home the fans thrust dollar bills at him through the backstop like they were ringsiders at a strip joint. I doubt he raked $7,600, though. Within a couple of years he was pumping gas at a Phillips station on Route 66.
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?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump
Grimm not doing himself any favors lately re: making the playoff squad. Seems to have lost the feel for his curveball.
j.grimm is literally worse than hitler.
felix pena, your turn.