SOUTHERN LEAGUE (AA) CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES GAME 2 THREAD (JAXX LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES 1-0) [PARACHAT] WEST TENN DIAMOND JAXX (83-56) @ JACKSONVILLE SUNS (79-61) THE BASEBALL GROUNDS, 6:05 pm CDT, RADIO: Dixie 1310 WDXI TV: Internet Video Feed
The Jaxx connected twice yesterday, which is worthy of mention not just because it leads to silly titles such as the above, but also because the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville is one of the most pitcher-friendly in all of baseball, with most of the outfield between left-centre and right-centre well over 375 feet from the plate. Anyway, the Jaxx won't have to put up with too many enormous cans of corn, because after tonight's game they'll head back home to Jackson, West Tennessee, where the series will be decided once tomorrow's off-day is out of the way.
The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx opened their first Southern League Championship Series in four years last night, and I missed it, because the scheduling change slipped my mind. But at least the Jaxx won (recap, box, play-by-play), and how! With the recent promotions of Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano and Matt Cain to the big leagues, yesterday's starter for the Jacksonville Suns, Chad Billingsley, is most probably the best pitching prospect in the minors right now. He throws a lively fastball anywhere from 93 to 97 and has superb secondary stuff in the shape of his plus-plus slider and hard curveball. In his last seven starts prior to yesterday's contest, Billingsley had a 46.2 IP, 17 H, 3 HR, 15 BB, 46 K, 0.96 ERA line, and if 17 hits allowed in his last 46.2 innings pitched wasn't ridiculous enough, try 12 in his last 40.2. Or 0 in his last 7, for it was only last Thursday that Billingsley combined with reliever Jonathon Broxton to pitch a no-hitter, in the process picking up his sixth consecutive win. All in all, I think it's fair to say that the kid, for he's only 21, was on a roll. And did it bother our Jaxx one bit? Well, let's just say that...
GAME 145 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (67-76) @ CHICAGO CUBS (71-73) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports Ohio
Carlos Zambrano, RHP
13-5, 3.18 ERA
180/78 K/BB, 15 HR in 195.0 IP
Eric Milton, LHP
7-14, 6.63 ERA
111/47 K/BB, 39 HR in 165.2 IP
2B Ryan Freel CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS #Felipe Lopez 2B *Todd Walker
LF *Adam Dunn 1B Derrek Lee
CF Wily Mo Pena 3B Nomar Garciaparra
1B *Sean Casey RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C Jason LaRue C Michael Barrett
3B Edwin Encarnacion LF Matt Murton
RF Chris Denorfia SS #Neifi Perez
P *Eric Milton P #Carlos Zambrano
Just kidding about the title, we can hopefully agree that this is about the best lineup we can hope for with the current Cubs personnel. Don't forget to listen in on the Jaxx quest for the Southern League championship. It's currently 4-2 Jaxx in the top of the second, 3 of the runs coming in on a Brandon Sing homer off Dodger uber-prospect Chad Billingsley. Jae-kuk Ryu is going for the Jaxx. Go Cubs!!!
GAME 144 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (66-76) @ CHICAGO CUBS (71-72) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: CSN
Greg Maddux, RHP
12-11, 4.28 ERA
116/32 K/BB, 24 HR in 189.1 IP
Aaron Harang, RHP
9-12, 3.60 ERA
146/50 K/BB, 16 HR in 185.0 IP
2B Ryan Freel CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS #Felipe Lopez SS #Neifi Perez
2B Rich Aurilia. 1B Derrek Lee
LF *Adam Dunn 3B Nomar Garciaparra
1B *Sean Casey 2B *Todd Walker
RF Austin Kearns RF #Jose Macias
C #Javier Valentin LF Matt Murton
CF Wily Mo Pena C Henry Blanco
P Aaron Harang P Greg Maddux
As I pointed out in this week's organizational report, Maddux has 4 more chances to win 3 games and they may skip someone else's start so that he gets 5 more chances. I'm not sure how I feel about that, forcing your way to a record doesn't seem like the right way to go about things, on the other hand skipping what most likely will be a Glendon Rusch start, doesn't mean anything to me either. What's worse, Macias starting, or Macias hitting ahead of Murton? Tough call... The Cubs march on.... Go Cubs!!!
West Tennessee's MVP shortstop Ryan Theriot has been called up for today's game, a move necessitated by Ronny Cedeno breaking his left hand on Saturday, being most probably out for what's left of the season, and therefore leaving the Cubs light up the middle. Due to expanded rosters, Cedeno avoids the disabled list, but Kerry Wood has been shifted to the 60-day DL to make room for Theriot on the 40-man roster. Daytona infielder Carlos Rojas will replace Theriot in the Jaxx's championship series versus the Jacksonville Suns, which now begins on Tuesday rather than Wednesday after a scheduling change. Congratulations to Theriot, but wouldn't you hate to leave your team when they're on the brink of a championsip, even if it's just the Southern League? And why do we need him with the big club? Neifi will play shortstop, Walker plays second and the combination of Hairston, Macias and Nomar can back all those positions up. It seems pointless, especially when you have Mike Fontentot already on the 40 man roster. I suppose there's a reason behind this and it might actually be good, but quite a blow to the Jaxx and their championship aspirations. As for Theriot's skills, he's been considered an absolute defenseive wizard through his years with the farm system and a lightweight with the bat. That is until this year, when he scrapped switch-hitting and went to hitting exclusively from the right side. He's way old to be considered a prospect (he'll turn 26 in December), but he did hit a robust .304/.365/.391, stealing 24 bases in 34 attempts with 45 walks to 38 strikeouts.
I had a chance to go to Saturday's game at SBC Park, what will most likely be my only chance to see the Cubbies up close this year. Here's a few things I noticed, pardon my bullet pointing: - Did the insane thing of driving up from L.A. to San Francisco for the day(and then back). Don't ask why, but I have my reasons, none of them were all that comforting when I was up at 4:00 am though. I made the trip with a pal of mine who's never been to SBC park and then introduced me to the Carl's Jr. breakfast burger, which we affectionately named "Death on a Bun". Not only does it include hash brown nuggets on the burger, they throw an extra dose of hash browns as a side order, for an extra cost you can purchase a defibrillator.
Abbreviated organizational report this week since the minors league seasons are over except for the AA Jaxx. I'll get a post up with the final minor league numbers in the next few weeks. For more info on the Cubs' minor league system, check out Rudy Kamman, writing at Road to Wrigley. Team Records updated through 9/12/05
Organizational Records
TeamW-LGB/Pos.Last 10
Chicago Cubs71-72(Div)19.5/3rd
(WC)5.5/5th
8-2
Iowa Cubs64-758.5/4th3-7
West Tenn Diamond Jaxx*39-31
83-56
0.0/1st5-5
Daytona Cubs34-34
69-66
4.0/5th6-4
Peoria Chiefs33-37
68-72
4.5/6th5-5
Boise Hawks34-423.0/3rd5-5
AZL Cubs9-19
19-37
9.0/9th4-6
Cubs Ex W/L: 72-71; (2003) 76-67; (2004) 79-64 * West Tennessee swept their first round series over the Carolina Mudcats and face the Jacksonville Suns for the Southern League championship starting on Tuesday, September 13th.
By virtue of an 11-2 rout (recap, boxscore, play-by-play), the Cubs beat the Marlins in the playoffs. Or, to be more precise, they swept the Marlins in the playoffs. And Dusty Baker was nowhere to be seen. No, I'm not day-dreaming about October 2003 and what could have been, but rather I'm talking about the Cubs' Double-A affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, who yesterday completed their three-game sweep of their Marlins' counterpart, the Carolina Mudcats. They'll now progress to the Southern League Championship Series for the first time since 2000, where, starting Wednesday, they'll take on either the Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) or the Birmingham Barons (White Sox) in another best-of-five series [Update: Suns it is, they completed their own sweep of the Barons on Saturday].
GAME 142 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (69-72) @ SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (64-76) SBC PARK, 9:15 pm CDT, TV: CSN, KTVU
Brad Hennessey, RHP
4-6, 4.96 ERA
51/42 K/BB, 13 HR in 89.0 IP
Mark Prior, RHP
10-5, 3.69 ERA
160/47 K/BB, 23 HR in 144.0 IP
CF *Corey Patterson CF #Randy Winn
LF Jerry Hairston SS #Omar Vizquel
1B Derrek Lee 1B *J.T. Snow
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF Moises Alou
3B Scott McClain 2B #Ray Durham
2B #Todd Walker 3B Pedro Feliz
SS Ronny Cedeno RF #Dave Ortmeier
C Henry Blanco C Yamid Haad
P Mark Prior P Brad Hennessey
How about that Matt Cain last night? I fell asleep right after Derrek Lee's home run (I'm old), and apparently I didn't miss much else besides a sterling pitching performance from the 20-year-old Cain. The Giants still apparently think they're in the NL West race. They're seven games behind the Padres (the Cubs are closer than that to the wildcard lead), but the Giants announcers, the excellent Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, kept talking about what the Giants needed to do to catch San Diego. Why is it that I didn't think that was crazy, the way I would if Bob & Len were saying it? The Cubs are going to miss the reactivation of Barry Bonds -- it looks like he'll come back tomorrow, once the Cubs re on their way back home. What, exactly, did Corey Patterson do to deserve the leadoff spot? Was it getting picked off on Thurday? Is it the 2-for-15 he's currently on? Maybe it's the fact that he's hitting 177/217/291 since his recall, or 153/196/260 since June 21st. It must be something...
SOUTHERN LEAGUE (AA) NORTHERN DIVISION PLAYOFFS GAME 3 THREAD (JAXX LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES 2-0) [PARACHAT] CAROLINA MUDCATS (77-57) @ WEST TENN DIAMOND JAXX (83-56) PRINGLES PARK, 5:05 pm CDT, RADIO: Dixie 1310 WDXI
After winning last night's game 2-1 in the ninth (recap, boxscore, play-by-play) to take a 2-0 series lead, the residents of West Tennessee have their brooms out tonight as the Jaxx look to go sweeping. Ricky Nolasco was simply outstanding yesterday, pitching eight scoreless frames. Though he had just the two innings in which he kept the bases clean, and a number of runners got themselves into scoring position, Nolasco immediately slammed the door shut every time, dialling his sinking fastball up to a very impressive 94mph in the late innings and inducing huge strikeouts with his excellent "Uncle Charlie" (or curveball, to you and me). 8 innings, 6 hits, 2 walks and a hit by pitch, 11 strikeouts, and, most importantly, 0 runs. Impressive.
GAME 141 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (69-71) @ SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (63-76) SBC PARK, 9:15 pm CDT, TV: CSN, KTVU
Matt Cain, RHP
1-1, 2.25 ERA
6/5 K/BB, 1 HR in 12.0 IP
Jerome Williams, RHP
5-7, 4.77 ERA
56/36 K/BB, 12 HR in 88.2 IP
LF Jerry Hairston Jr. CF #Randy Winn
SS #Neifi Perez SS #Omar Vizquel
1B Derrek Lee 1B *J.T. Snow
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF Moises Alou
3B Nomar Garciaparra 2B #Ray Durham
2B #Todd Walker 3B Pedro Feliz
C Michael Barrett RF #Dave Ortmeier
CF *Corey Patterson C Mike Matheny
P Jerome Williams P Matt Cain
Jerome Williams gets a chance to pitch at his old haunt, while attempting to gain enough Dusty points to keep him in mind for next year's rotation. For the Giants, it's one of their top propsects, 20-year-old Matt Cain on the mound. The Giants 1st round pick in 2002, his ascent through the system has been swift and for the most part justifiable. After putting up a respectable season in AA ball at age 19 last year (6-4, 3.35 ERA,40 BB, 72 K, 7 HR, 86.0 IP), he followed it with an average year at AAA Fresno (10-5, 4.39 ERA, 73 BB, 176 K, 22 HR, 145.2 IP). Considering he won't reach his 21st birthday until October 1st, that's not too shabby, not to mention the PCL is certainly a hitter's league. His numbers look like the perfect candidate to be a Cub, don't they? Lots of K's, lots of walks and lots of home runs allowed. Baseball America had him rated as the Giants top prospect before the season and possessing the top curveball in the whole system. He ranked as the 13th best prospect in all of baseball as well. As for the Cubbies, the march to .500 continues, player development be damned. I'll be at the game tomorrow and with the Giants throwing out righty Brad Hennessey, it's unlikely I'll get to see both Murton and Cedeno play and potentially neither. Wouldn't mind seeing them in person. I do get to see Prior pitch which is always fun and could be made more fun if he plunked Barry Bonds right in the armguard (if he happens to play). Go Cubs and Congratulations to the Jaxx, who swept their first round series tonight with an 11-2 thrashing of the Carolina Mudcats!!!
SOUTHERN LEAGUE (AA) NORTHERN DIVISION PLAYOFFS GAME 2 THREAD (JAXX LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES 1-0) [PARACHAT] CAROLINA MUDCATS (77-57) @ WEST TENN DIAMOND JAXX (83-56) PRINGLES PARK, 6:35 pm CDT, RADIO: Dixie 1310 WDXI
The Jaxx made a good start to the Southern League playoffs last night, winning the opening game of the series 3-0 (recap, boxscore, play-by-play) on the back of Renyel Pinto's fine pitching and multi-hit games from Eric Patterson, Casey McGehee, Brandon Sing and Jose Reyes, who is not the Mets' shortstop. Last season Renyel Pinto won the Southern League Pitcher of the Year title, but this year it was not to be. Why's that? Because, keeping it in the family, it was tonight's Jaxx starter, Ricky Nolasco, that took home the prize, leaving poor Pinto this year had to settle just for being named the best left-hander in the league. Yes, indeed, it would seem that the Jaxx have orchestrated something of a monopoly over the pitching prizes.
GAME 140 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (68-71) @ SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (63-75) SBC PARK, 9:15 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports Bay Area
Noah Lowry, LHP
12-11, 3.71 ERA
153/67 K/BB, 18 HR in 174.2IP
Carlos Zambrano, RHP
12-5, 3.16 ERA
174/75 K/BB, 14 HR in 188.0 IP
CF Jerry Hairston Jr CF #Randy Winn
SS Ronny Cedeno SS #Omar Vizquel
1B Derrek Lee 1B *J.T. Snnow
3B Nomar Garciaparra LF Moises Alou
C Michael Barrett 2B #Ray Durham
RF *Jeromy Burnitz 3B Edgardo Alfonzo
2B #Neifi Perez RF #Todd Linden
LF Matt Murton C Mike Matheny
P #Carlos Zambrano P Noah Lowry
On June 22nd, Carlos Zambrano gave up eight runs in two and two-thirds innings to the Milwaukee Brewers. It was his 15th start of the year and he's had 13 starts since that ill-fated game. As of June 22nd: 4-4, 4.27 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, .97 HR/9 Since June 23rd: 8-1, 2.08 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, .38 HR/9 On the opposing mound, will be crafty left-hander Noah Lowry, who was just named the pitcher of the month for August. Does he have an equally defining turning point to his season? Well it looks like the Brewers once again inspired a pitcher to greatness. Lowry gave up four runs in five and a third innings on July 31st to the Brew Crew. As of July 31st: 6-11, 4.48 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9 (22 starts) Since August 1st: 6-0, 1.19 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, .20 HR/9 (6 starts) I'm going to guess that August was the exception to an otherweise mediocre season. The one thing the above comparision does tell us is that major league pitchers get pretty fired up when they get trounced by the Brewers. Barry Bonds may return later in the series, and I have plans to see the game on Saturday (Prior vs. Hennessy). Could hurt my ability to secure some cheap tickets. Fiddlesticks!!! Hey, a sweep and we're above .500. It could happen, no, really, mathematically it could happen. Go Cubs!!!
SOUTHERN LEAGUE (AA) NORTHERN DIVISION PLAYOFFS GAME 1, IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CAROLINA MUDCATS (77-57) @ WEST TENN DIAMOND JAXX (83-56) PRINGLES PARK, 6:35 pm CDT, RADIO: WDXI
It's not all doom and gloom in the Cubs' system. No, the team's Double-A affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, have qualified for the postseason by virtue of winning both the first and second halves of the season in the Northern Division of the Southern League! Today, the Jaxx commence a best-of-five series against their biggest rivals this season, the Carolina Mudcats, a Florida Marlins affiliate, and given that the Cubs aren't giving us much to cheer about at the Major League level, why shouldn't we revel in the fact that the Jaxx have enjoyed a terrific year? It's pure escapism!
GAME 139 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (67-71) @ ST LOUIS CARDINALS (88-51) BUSCH STADIUM, 7:10 pm CDT, TV: CSN, FSMW
Mark Mulder, LHP
15-6, 3.62 ERA
96/59 K/BB, 16 HR in 176.1IP
Greg Maddux, RHP
11-11, 4.41 ERA
112/30 K/BB, 24 HR in 183.2 IP
CF Jerry Hairston Jr SS David Eckstein
SS Ronny Cedeno 3B *Abraham Nunez
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Nomar Garciaparra CF *Jim Edmonds
C Michael Barrett RF *John Mabry
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF So Taguchi
2B #Neifi Perez C Yadier Molina
LF Matt Murton 2B Hector Luna
P Greg Maddux P Mark Mulder
Maddux should have 5 more chances to win 4 more games to keep his 15 wins a season streak alive. Assuming the Cubs keep a 5 man rotation and don't skip any starts, here's Maddux's slate for the rest of the year. Tonight 09/07 @STLC 9/12 vs. Cincy 9/17 vs. STLC 9/23 vs Houston 9/29 @ Houston Pre ASB #'s: 2004: 7-7 4.51 ERA/18 BB/77 K/20 HR/112.2 IP 2005: 8-6 4.67 ERA/20 BB/72 K/16 HR/115.2 IP Post ASB #'s: 2004: 9-4 3.48 ERA/15 BB/74 K/15 HR/101.0 IP 2005: 3-5 3.97 ERA/10 BB/40 K/8 HR/68.0 IP He should surpass his innings mark tonight to get his contract to vest for next season as well. It would be real nice if he helped knock the Astros out of the playoffs to keep the streak alive. The Cubs trounced Mulder the only time we faced him this year in Chicago, to the tune of 7 runs in 4 innings. Murton was actually the only hitter to not get a hit that day among the starters. Maddux happened to start that game for the Cubbies as well, throwing a 101 pitch, complete game for his 9th victory of the season. This is the last game we'll all see the Cubs play at Busch Stadium and I can't say I'm the least bit sad. It's been the house of horrors for us throughout the years and there is something communistic about artificial turf (yeah I know they went to grass, but the glory days were 115 degree days in the middle of August watching Willie McGee, Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith run all over us). A win today and the Cubs take the season series at Busch Stadium, I believe that hasn't happened since 1995(we really need a fact-checker here at TCR). It would also give them no worse than a tie for the overall season series, even with 4 games left at Wrigley before the season ends. Go Cubs, but more importantly GO JAXX!!!

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