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.
Arizona Phil 16 hours 35 min ago (view)
VIDEO: Zach Davis and Rochest Cruz are (were) probably the two fastest players (sprint-speed on the bases) in the Cubs system (though not Cruz anymore, obviously).
Arizona Phil 16 hours 50 min ago (view)
Cubs minor league RHRP Ben Hecht (Cubs 2017 12th round pick - Wichita State) had TJS a couple of days ago.
videographer 19 hours 50 min ago (view)
Rochest Cruz had some success in the DSL a couple of years ago. Too bad he didn't pan out. Carlos Pacheco showed power numbers in the DSL two or three years ago along with a high K rate.
tim815 1 day 12 hours ago (view)
The rush to 70 players.
Arizona Phil 1 day 12 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have released OF Luis Berrelleza, INF Rochest Cruz, LHP Misael Garcia, OF Orlando Guzman, C-1B Brayan Mancilla, RHP Yander Montero, OF Carlos Pacheco, and OF John Rodriguez.
crunch 1 day 15 hours ago (view)
it screws up stats. i know you play for wins/losses, but real money is on the line for players and makes agent/player homework selling their client a bit harder.
it also makes historical comparisons difficult.
the amount of time i've seen a fresh inning starting out...bunt guy to 3rd for an out, IBB, IBB is too high. what would amount to a leadoff single following that can easily turn into 2 runs (1 earned) with guys on the corner...which usually leads to another IBB.
Charlie 1 day 16 hours ago (view)
Jay Jaffe has a timely argument against the runner on second rule over at fangraphs: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-runner-on-second-i...
I still don't know why we don't just have ties. Obviously, the Cubs could have dodged most of these situations by simply hitting a little bit during the regulation innings.
Arizona Phil 1 day 18 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have signed free-agent RHSP Adrian Sampson to a minor league contract and he has been assigned to AAA Iowa, and RHP Michael McAvene, LHP Jack Patterson, and OF Donnie Dewees have been placed on the 60-day IL to open up slots for Sampson, Trayce Thompson, and Kyle Ryan on the Cubs minor league 180-man Domestic Reserve List.
crunch 1 day 19 hours ago (view)
well that sucked.
2-game sweep, 2 games under .500
crunch 1 day 19 hours ago (view)
stumbled onto this today...clip from a 2019 ESPN broadcast game with boog, chipper jones, and david ross in the booth...
boog used to call games for ATL, btw...
tim815 1 day 22 hours ago (view)
Someone on social media was floating Yoelqui Cespedes to the Cubs in a Bryant trade.
I was clueless if it was permitted. It is.
Wrigley Rat 2 days 9 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have traded for outfielder Trayce Thompson, who was with the Diamondbacks at Triple-A, but is formerly of the big league White Sox, Dodgers, and A’s. The Diamondbacks are getting cash in the deal, which is a reflection of the reality that Thompson, 30, is a depth outfielder at this point in his career. Thompson is the younger brother of NBA star Klay Thompson. https://www.bleachernation.com/cubs/2021/05/11/cub...
crunch 2 days 15 hours ago (view)
i'd like to point out ross feels more comfortable with j.pederson and k.bryant in CF over j.heyward.
watching heyward not just look human in the OF, but having a bit of a hard time is rough. he's just not getting to stuff like he used to.
crunch 2 days 15 hours ago (view)
bryant out of the game for no apparent reason...that...doesn't seem good...
he's "under the weather" according the clubhouse. that's better than screwed up oblique or similar, at least.
crunch 2 days 17 hours ago (view)
this shane bieber guy kinda sucks. 1 run in, bases loaded 0 outs.
i hope 4-5 innings of alzolay and the 5 pen guys after him hold it down.
...hey wow, bases loaded 0 out turns into 0 runs...very cubs.
George Altman 2 days 18 hours ago (view)
Baseball wants more offense, fans want more action -- limit pitching staffs to 12, ideally transition to 11 over a 3 year period.
Teams are asking RPs to throw only 45 pitches a week. Think about that.
SPs who throw 175 IP/Yr will be museum pieces in 5 years.
It's not shifts. Oh....and electronic Strike zones as soon as possible.