Ben Carhart Wild Card Joker in the Mesa Deck
Ben Carhart muscled a walk-off RBI single to center with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to drive-in Garrett Schlecht from 3rd base with the winning run, as the AZL Cubs edged the AZL Giants 8-7 to clinch the AZL Wild Card berth tonight in Mesa, AZ.
The Giants grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st, as Shane Houck took Cubs starter Paul Blackburn (Cubs 2012 Supplemental 1st round pick received for losing free-agent 1B Carlos Pena post-2011) deep with a three-run shot before Blackburn could record an out.
But the Cubs came back to tie the game in the bottom of 2nd.
David Bote singled and Trevor Gretzky walked to start the inning, and after Yasiel Balaguert plated one run with an opposite-field line-drive RBI single to RF (the first of two RBI singles for Balaguert tonight), hot-shot 18-year old Venezuelan SS Carlos Penalver came through with a two-out two-run bases-loaded RBI single to right to drive-in the tying runs.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 3rd, as Shawon Dunston Jr blasted a two-out bases-loaded three-run double to right to cap a four-run inning and put the Cubs up 7-3, but the Giants came back to tie the game with four runs of their own in the 5th, as Jonathan Jones and Gabriel Cornier ripped RBI singles off Cubs reliever Jasvir Rakkar.
Cubs RHP Ethan Elias then threw three clutch hitless innings in relief (with four strikeouts - all swinging) and Steve Perakslis followed with a 1-2-3 9th to keep the Giants at bay, giving the Cubs a chance to win the game in the final frame.
Garrett Schlecht led of the bottom of the 9th by doing what he does best (draw a walk), and advanced to 2nd base on an errant pick-off attempt by Giants reliever Scotty Walker. Shawon Dunston Jr laid down a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Schlecht to 3rd base with just one out, but Carlos Penalver grounded out 6-3 with the infield drawn-in to keep Schlecht at 3rd. That's when Carhart came through with his big two-out hit, the one that put the Cubs into the 2012 AZL playoffs.
Tonight's game was important for the Cubs but absolutely critical for the Giants, because for the G-Men to get into the AZL playoffs as the Wild Card team, they had to win their last four games, and the Cubs needed to lose their last four. The Giants did have the advantage of playing the Cubs twice over their final four games (tonight in Mesa and Monday night in Scottsdale), but it was still a long-shot for the Giants to catch the Cubs before time ran out.
The Cubs still have an outside shot at winning the AZL East Division and finishing with the best record in the league, but to do that they would have to win all three of their remaining games, and the AZL Athletics would have to lose their final three. The Cubs do play the A's Sunday night in Phoenix, but beyond that they will have to beat the Giants on Monday and the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and hope for some assistance from the Giants and Diamondbacks (the A's opponents in their final two games on Tuesday and Wednesday).
To further complicate matters, there is a very remote possibility that the Athletics and Dodgers might have to play a rain-out make-up game on Thursday (delaying the start of the playoffs), but that's only if the Dodgers lose their next four games and the Indians win their last three.
Otherwise, the AZL playoffs are scheduled to begin this coming Thursday (and end on Friday!), with (as things stand right now) the Cubs playing the A's at Papago Park in Phoenix and the Rangers playing the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, and then the winners of those two games meeting in the AZL Championship Game the next day (Friday) at the home field of the last-surviving division winner with the best record. (The Wild Card team does not get a home game, which is unfortunate for the Cubs because they have the best home record in the AZL).
Paul Blackburn (who started tonight) is probably the likely Cubs starter in Thursday's semi-final playoff game versus the A's, and if the Cubs are able to get to the AZL Championship Game on Friday, Cubs 2012 2nd round draft pick RHP Duane Underwood could be the starter in that game.
BTW, minor league baseball is mainly about player development and individual performance, and so as a result it might seem sometimes as though winning isn't all that important. But winning does matter to the players. And there is nothing wrong with developing a winning team attitude that a player can take with him to the higher levels of the minor leagues and (hopefully) eventually to the big leagues.
So congratulations to the AZL Cubs.
Kershaw, Fernandez and Syndergaard are your current leaders and all will be pitching meaningful games down the stretch that could make or break them. Hendricks will not be and his saber-numbers aren't anywhere close to those 3 and he'd split votes with Arrieta and Lester whom all are basically neck-and-neck for WAR and FIP. If Kershaw pitches like just okay Kershaw in September he deserves to win in a landslide. Voters are pretty much saber-inclined now so it would take a crazy shutout streak or something for Hendricks to jump in the picture.
AZ PHIL: With starters the likes of Edwin Jackson, even Chris Rusin or Michael Bowden could look good on their staff. At best, he is a #5-6. But as always, LH are at a premium.
Sure we would all want consistency. He is not even 24, has played 5 (!) positions this year. Can you imagine what is in his head? He was only a part-time player at 2 spots last year. And THEN think about hitting?? Cut him some slack...You sure are picky lately. First wishing #6 NL RBI guy Russell have a better average, and now an "unncessarily fancy pick". Geez tough crowd!
it's going to be hard to take down scherzer.
kershaw is supposedly coming back soon, though he'll probably need a good amount of deep innings to match up with scherzer...probably too late at this point. tanner roark, bumgarner, and hendricks are probably going to steal some votes along with kershaw.
I absolutely love Javy's game, and I love the way Maddon changed the perception of him as a ballplayer, but I really wish he would just make the routine plays routinely. On the ground ball in the 9th, he made an unnecessarily fancy pick. He made the play, but tried the same thing last night and made an error.
How many wins does Kyle need for serious Cy Young consideration? Would 17 be enough if he leads the league in ERA? My goodness, what a season -- makes a Dartmouth alum proud.
hendricks WHIP drops to 0.98 over 159 innings after throwing 7ip 3h 1bb 4k, 0r/er
ERA down to 2.09 on the season.
I am pretty well fed up with the majority of home plate umps. Just terrible inconsistencies.
Oh shit forgot about that
Shark and Sczur right?
Yes, football player?- check.
If it was 2006 Hendry would be there w a Bible and a contract
he subscribes to my twitter, he's beyond TCR. #yolo #swag
Whoops. Maddon must have been reading TCR (for his daily crunch) and got confused.
kuhl is a righty, not a lefty.
i think maddon might think kuhl is a lefty, too. i wonder what the reasoning is for baez leading off vs a rightie.