Cubs Pitchers Smoke Out the Tribe
Three Cub pitchers combined to throw a four-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, as the AZL Cubs celebrated the 4th of July with a 2-0 blanking of the AZL Indians in Arizona League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa tonight.
20-year old Dominican RHP Luis Liria got the start for the Cubs and threw four shutout innings (60 pitches - 37 strikes), allowing three singles and a walk, while striking out six. In three GS (12.2 IP) so far for the AZL Cubs, Liria has 17 strikeouts, good for 5th in the league. Liria pitched well in Extended Spring Training, too, although he did suffer from occasional control lapses.
6'5 Australian LHP Cody Hams followed Liria to the mound, and retired all nine men he faced. The 20-year old Hams missed most of Extended Spring Training with a sore back after trying to perfect a new sidearm delivery, but he has pitched very well in three AZL relief outings so far (1.42 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 6.1 IP) after returning to a more conventional arm-slot. Hams is the former star cricket player (bowler) who paid his own way to the MLB Australian Academy in 2007 after a friend told him he should try playing baseball. And the second baseball game he ever saw in his life was one where he was the pitcher! The Cubs signed him to a reported $150K bonus in 2008 (the highest signing bonus any Australian signed by he Cubs has received so far), and he has spent the past three seasons at Fitch Park learning the finer points of pitching. He is (or was) the definition of a "blank slate."
RHP Alvido Jimenez pitched the final two innings and notched the save, allowing a hit and a walk while strikng out five. (He struck out the side in the 9th after surrendering a lead-off triple). Jimenez was used as both a starter and a reliever as a 17-year old last season in the DSL, but he has been working exclusively out of the bullpen in both Extended Spring Training and AZL games this year.
While Cubs pitchers were mowing-down the Tribe, Cubs hitters provided just enough offense to nail-down the victory.
The Cubs scored their first run in the bottom of the 2nd when Cody Shields reached base on a one-out bunt single down the 3rd base line, and then after Xavier Batista hit into a FC, Albert Hernandez directed a picture-perfect hit & run single right where the 2nd baseman had been a second earlier, and X. Batista (who never stopped running) came all the way around to score from 1st base.
The Cubs picked-up an insurance run in the 6th, as Ryan Cuneo (2010 20th round draft pick out of the U. of Delaware) continued his torrid hitting by ripping a lead-off double off the RF fence, before scoring on a two-out line single to left by Cody Shields. Cuneo is hitting 356/408/600 in 11 AZL games, and is 5th in the league in SLG %. If he keeps hitting the ball the way he has so far, it shouldn't be too long before Cuneo gets his Letter of Transit out of Casablanca.