Giansanti a Ringer Ding-Dinger for AZL Cubs
Anthony Giansanti slugged a two-run double off the CF Batter's Eye to cap a three-run 1st inning and Ryan McNeil and three relievers combined to throw a shutout, as the AZL Cubs whitewashed the AZL Diamondbacks 3-0 in Game #1, and then Giansanti hammered a lead-off walk-off HR off the base of the scoreboard in the bottom of the 7th that gave the Cubs a 1-0 victory in Game #2, as the Cubs took both ends of a twilight-night doubleheader at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ this evening.
The versatile multi-positional (C-1B-3B-RF-LF) Giansanti is on a rehab assignment from Peoria, after being placed on the Chiefs DL with a sprained ankle last month. He played 3B in Game #1 and 1B in Game #2 tonight, and with the depletion of the AZL Cubs roster in recent days and weeks thanks to call-ups and injuries, having Giansanti in the lineup (even if he is a "ringer") is just what the Cubs need right now.
Two position-players from DSL Cubs #1 have also been called-up this week to provide some much-needed roster depth for the AZL Cubs, although both OF Jeffrey Baez and C Wilfredo Petit were in Mesa previously (Baez at AZ Instructs last year and at Extended Spring Training this year, and Petit at both Minor League Camp and Extended Spring Training this season). Both players were assigned to DSL Cubs #1 when the Dominican Summer League season began play in June (prior to the start of the AZL season) after spending two months at EXST.
Iowa Cubs RHP Rafael Dolis (placed on the I-Cubs 7-day DL in July with a sprained left knee) continued his rehab in Game #1 and threw 1.1 IP (24 pitches) of shutout ball (although he did allow a single and a double), and Peoria RHP Ben Wells (sprained elbow) opted to postpone TJS in the hope that his elbow would heal with rest, and it apparently has paid-off as the prized pitching prospect returned to action tonight after missing almost three months of action. The burly right-hander threw one inning of shutout ball, and while he did walk one and struggled with his command a bit (19 pitches - 11 strikes), he also struck out the side.
18-year old RHP Ryan McNeil (Cubs 2012 3rd round draft pick out of Nipomo HS - Nipomo, CA) got the start in Game #1 and threw four innings (58 pitches - 40 strikes), allowing no runs on five hits and no walks, with two strikeouts and a nifty pick-off at 1st base.
RHP Jasvir Rakkar (Cubs 2012 26th round draft pick) had the most-impressive outing of the night, getting the save in Game #1 after throwing 1.2 IP of shutout ball with four punch-outs. Rakkar has not allowed a run over the course of seven innings (and five AZL appearances) so far. The 21-year old Canadian attended SUNY - Stony Brook, and pitched for the Seawolves in the College World Series prior to signing with the Cubs.
With tonight's doubleheader sweep, the AZL Cubs extended their lead in the AZL Wild Card standings to three games over the AZL Giants with only five games left to play, although two of the five games remaining are against the Giants.
If the Cubs can hold their lead in the AZL Wild Card standings, they will qualify for the AZL playoffs as the Wild Card team and would play their 1st round game on the road versus the team with the best record (which right now is the East Division leading AZL Athletics). The winner of that game would then play the winner of the other semi-final game (probably AZL Dodgers versus AZL Rangers) in a winner-take-all (and loser-go-home) Championship Game the next day. (The AZL doesn't mess around).
In fact, the AZL Cubs and the Boise Hawks are the only two Cubs minor league affiliates likely to qualify for the playoffs this year, and both are in pretty good shape to do so. It's just too bad that the AZL Cubs (should they qualify) would be playing without a lot of the guys (Vogelbach, Soler, Almora, Saunders, Martin, et al) who put them in a position to qualify for the AZL playoffs in the first place.