Cubs Keep Heat on the A's in Arizona
Carlos Penalver and Shawon Dunston smacked back-to-back two-out doubles and Ben Carhart followed with an RBI single to plate the first two runs in the top of the 5th, and Jeffrey Baez poked an opposite-field RBI single to drive-in the final run in the 8th, leading the AZL Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the AZL Athletics in Arizona League action at Papago Park Baseball Complex Field #2 (AKA "Connie Mack Field" ) in Phoenix this evening.
The Cubs clinched the AZL Wild Card slot with their victory over the Giants last night, but with tonight's win, the Cubs closed to within one game of the AZL East Division leading A's (albeit two back in the "loss column"), and they still have a chance to win the East Division and finish with the league's best record (insuring "home field advantage" in the AZL Playoffs).
Home Field Advantage is especially important to the AZL Cubs, because they have the league's best home record in 2012.
Both the Cubs and the A's have only two games left, and so the Cubs need to win both of their games and hope that the A's lose both of their games.
Tonight's game was scoreless until two outs in the top of the 5th. Carlos Penalver lined a rope-double into the LF corner, and then Shawon Dunston Jr smoked an RBI double into the RF corner to score Penalver. Ben Carhart followed with a line-drive RBI single over a leaping A's shortstop to plate Dunston with the second run of the game (and the inning).
The A's narrowed the score to 2-1 with a run in the bottom of the 5th, but the Cubs took advantage of a throwing error by the A's catcher to score two unearned runs in the top of the 6th.
With two outs and Cub runners at 2nd & 3rd, Danny Lockhart swung & missed at a 1-2 pitch in the dirt. Lockhart then took off for 1st base, requiring the catcher to throw him out. But the throw overshot the 1st baseman by a mile and rolled into the RF corner, allowing both runners to score easily and Lockhart to advance all the way to 3rd base (standing up).
The Cubs scored their 5th and final run in the 8th.
Yasiel Balaguert reached base on a throwing error by the A's shortstop, advanced to 2nd base on a ground out, and then stole 3rd base. Jeffrey Baez (called up from DSL Cubs #1 last weekend) then shot a ground single past the 1st baseman and into RF, scoring Balaguert.
Cubs 2012 2nd round draft pick Duane Underwood (Pope HS - Marietta, GA) got the start for the Cubs, and the 18-year old RHP labored through 2.1 IP (47 pitches - 26 strikes, including a 25-pitch 2nd inning), allowing two hits (a single and a double) and two walks, plus a HBP.
Underwood was relieved by 22-year old Dominican Hombre Misterio Juan Carlos Paniagua with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 3rd, and the recently-signed right-hander promptly struck out the next two batters (both swinging) to escape the jam. Paniagua also worked a 1-2-3 4th and recorded another punch-out, retiring all five men he faced (20 pitches - 12 strikes). He absolutely tied the young A's hitters in knots.
Paniagua has nasty stuff, including a 94-97 MPH heater, a plus-change, and a hard-breaking slider. He was known as "Juan Callado" back when he signed a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, and although he spent two seasons pitching for the DSL Diamondbacks (2009-10), his contract was never officially approved by MLB (the contract was "pending" the entire time) and was eventually voided due to "fraudulent documentation." (BTW, players are no longer permitted to play in the DSL with a contract "pending").
Callado was suspended by MLB for one year, and then signed with the New York Yankees in 2011 (this time as "Juan Carlos Paniagua") for $1.1M, but the contract was voided again because his age could not be documented.
The Cubs signed Paniagua last month ($1.5M bonus) after they were satisfied that all of his papers were in order, and Paniagua received a work visa from the US INS almost immediately. His contract was approved by MLB about ten days ago.
Paniagua is not a big guy (6'1 175), but he has a "live" arm. He also is athletic and fairly polished (after all, he has been pitching professionally off-and-on since 2009), and so he could move quickly through the pipeline, especially in a Cubs system devoid of legitimate MLB-caliber starting pitcher prospects.
Because his prior contracts were never approved by MLB, Paniagua was designated by MLB as a "First Year Player" when he signed with the Cubs in July, meaning his $1.5M bonus will count against the Cubs 2012-13 International Signing Bonus Pool. On the other hand, because he was designated a "First-Year Player" by MLB he will not be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft until December 2015. (If Paniagua had not been designated a "First-Year Player" prior to signing with the Cubs, the contract signed with the Cubs would have been a so-called "second contract," and while the $1.5M bonus would not have counted against the Cubs 2012-13 International SBP, Paniagua would have been eligible for selection in the December 2012 Rule 5 Draft, and thus the Cubs probably would have felt the need to add him to the their 40-man roster immediately to protect their investment).
Most of the AZL Cubs have nicknames associated with the player's last name (Carlos Penalver is "Penny," Danny Lockhart is "Lock," Steve Perakslis is "Percolator," et al), but everybody calls Juan Carlos Paniagua "Juan," probably because nobody really knows for sure whether his last name actually is Paniagua.
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.