Carlos Sanchez, Steven Selsky, and Brennan May hit back-to-back-to back home runs in the top of the 8th to put the game away, as the AZL Reds throttled the AZL Cubs 9-1 in Arizona League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning.
Selsky (the Reds 2011 33rd round draft pick out of the University of Arizona) also clubbed a solo HR off the LF foul pole to give the Reds a 1-0 lead in the top of the 2nd.
The game was a battle for the AZL Wild Card lead, as the Cubs and Reds came into the game tied in the AZL Wild Card standings. (The three division winners and the second-place team with the best record will qualify for the AZL playoffs). By winning today, the Reds take a one-game lead over the Cubs with ten games left to play (and the Reds own the tie-breaker, having defeated the Cubs three out of four times).
A number of the Cubs recent signees were in attendance at Fitch Park today (and 1B Rock Shoulders and OF John Andreoli were in uniform, although they did not play), getting a chance to partake in what is Arizona League baseball.
Cubs 2010 #1 draft pick RHP Hayden Simpson (Southern Arkansas U.) got the start for the AZL Cubs, and threw two innings (38 pitches - 22 strikes), allowing one run (the Selsky solo HR leading off the top of the 2nd), a two-out single in the second, and a four-pitch walk with one out in the top of the 1st. He did not strike out any Reds hitters, but he did induce a "room-service" 4-6-3 DP to end the top of the 1st inning. Simpson threw all of his pitches (fastball, curve, and change), but struggled to command his fastball.
Cubs 2010 8th round draft pick LHP Cam Greahouse (Gulf Coast CC) followed Simpson to the mound, and he REALLY struggled to throw strikes. Greathouse worked 1.2 IP (50 pitches - only 25 strikes), laboring through every AB, eventually allowing three runs on three hits, five walks, and two WP. Reds lead-off hitter Brandon Dailey stole three bases off Greathouse (he wasn't paying much attention to the runner, so catcher Neftali Rosario had no chance), although he did manage to pick another baserunner off or the outing would have been even worse than it was.
Greathouse had a fine debut season last year (4-2 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, allowing just 34 hits and only one HR, with 11/50 BB/K in 44.1 IP combined between Mesa and Boise), and he followed that with a solid Minor League Camp this past March that earned him a spot in the Peoria Chiefs 2011 Opening Day starting rotation. But things have gotten increasingly ugly for Greathouse ever since, as he got demoted to Boise in June after going 4-5 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.63 WHIP with 53 BB allowed in just 57.1 IP at Peoria, and then was sent down to Mesa (AZL Cubs) from Boise after going 0-5 with a 7.58 ERA and 2.32 WHIP, allowing 25 BB in just 19 IP in the NWL. No question Greathouse is a major mess right now.
Another pitcher who has struggled with his control this season is Cubs 2010 16th round draft pick RHP Ryan Hartman (Mt. Zion HS - Mt. Zion IL), and he continued to have problems locating the strike zone today. He walked the bases loaded with one out in the 6th before being pulled out of the game, eventually being charged with two runs in 1.2 IP of work (44 pitches but only 22 strikes).
27-year old Cuban defector RHP Yoannis Negrin (first name sometimes mistakenly spelled "Yoanner") followed Greathouse and Hartman, and displayed the polish and guile one would expect out of a pitcher with extensive experience in the Serie Nacional (the Cuban Major League). Negrin is a little guy and a short-armer (he throws like an infielder) who varies his arm angle from 3/4 to sidearm, throwing just about every pitch in the book. In just 1.2 IP I saw a four seam cutter, a two-seam sinker, a slider, a round-house curve, and a change-up, and I think I saw a srewball, too. Negrin lives on the edges of the plate--nibble, nibble, nibble--but never gives the batter much to hit. I doubt that he will be in Mesa much longer (he is WAY too advanced for rookie ball), but then again it might be gertting kind of late in the season for a promotion to Daytona or Tennessee.
And finally, AZL Cubs RHP Rafael Diplan did something I have never seen a pitcher do in my 30 years watching baseball at Fitch Park, not even in batting practice. He somehow managed to allow back-to-back-to back home runs.
With the large dimensions of the fields and the 20-ft high OF fence, it is very difficult for even a major leaguer (much less a minor leaguer who has not yet reached physical maturity) to hit a ball over the fence at any of the Fitch Park fields. But for three hitters (and three rookie ball hitters to boot) to do it in successive at-bats is just plain unbelievable.
While the Reds scored nine times, the Cubs offense was mostly quiet today, scoring just one run on seven hits. DH Brian Inoa did reach base four times (three walks and a single), but did not score. The Cubs plated their only run in the bottom of the 5th, as supersub Gregori Gonzalez (who played 3B today) smashed a ball off the left-centerfield fence for a lead-off triple, scoring later in the inning on a 6-4-3 DP.
The Cubs ran themselves out of a couple of other innings, as runners made the third out at 3rd base twice. Brian Inoa made the third out at 3rd base in the bottom of the 2nd trying advance from 2nd to 3rd on a third-strike ball in the dirt, and Garrett Schlecht (in just his second pro game) was thrown out (easily) at 3rd base by Steven Selsky trying to advance from 1st to 3rd on a bloop single that fell in front of the Reds LF with two outs in the bottom of the 7th.
I guess it should have been a precursor of things to come when Schlecht batted out of order in the bottom of the 2nd (he was supposed to hit 8th--after Trey Martin, but batted 7th--after Neftali Rosario--instead). As it turned out it didn't matter, because Schlecht struck out (and Inoa was thrown out at 3rd to end the inning), and Cubs manager Juan "Pee-Pee" Cabreja (who was probably too busy coaching 3rd base to realize the goof at the time it happened) caught the mistake before the next half-inning, as #9 hitter Gregori Gonzalez led-off the bottom of the 3rd and Martin-Schlecht hit 7-8 the rest of the game. But what the mistake did do was cheat Trey Martin out of what should have been his first AB of the game.