Cubs Minors Recap: Smokies even things up; Daytona, Boise lose despite dominant outings from Black, Blackburn

Cubs Minors Recap: Smokies even things up; Daytona, Boise lose despite dominant outings from Black, Blackburn
Dan Vogelbach (photo by Matt McNear)

Things are tightening up in the playoffs.  That's good news for the Smokies, but not so much for Daytona or Boise.  The Smokies were getting help from unexpected sources today -- which was much needed because Baez wasn't really a factor in the game.

Thanks to reader Matt for the great picture of Vogelbach above.

On with the recap...

Tennessee 10 - Birmingham 7

  • Eduardo Figueroa has gone from struggling reliever at Class A Daytona to playoff starter at AA Tennessee but today some of his old struggles resurfaced. The control issues that have plagued him despite solid stuff overall came back to haunt him and put the Smokies in an early hole.  Figueroa allowed 3 hits while walking 4 batters, causing manager Buddy Bailey to yank him after just 2.1 innings and a bases loaded jam.
  • A.J. Morris came in and may have saved the series for the Smokies by immediately striking out 2 batters with the bases loaded, keeping the score at just 2-0.  The Smokies immediately capitalized and tied the game in the bottom of the inning and then took the lead with 3 in the 4th.  Morris wasn't quite as sharp for the rest of his outing, walking 2 and allowing a run in his next 2 innings, but his clutch performance saved the day and he was able to pitch through the 5th and get the win.
  • The Smokies mixed and matched with their bullpen until the 8th inning but ran into trouble again in the 9th.  By that time, however, the Smokies had build a 10-4 lead and while it got a little scary when P.J. Francescon gave up 3 runs in the top of the 9th before Frank Batista came up with the tying run on deck.    Fortunately Batista got Cody Puckett to ground out to Javy Baez to end the game.
  • OF Matt Szczur went 1 for 3 including a key double down the left field line that drove in 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th, giving the Smokies a 5-2 lead at the time.  He later drove in another key insurance run with a sac fly in the 8th.
  • Arismendy Alcantara singled twice including a game tying 2 run single in the 3rd.
  • While Javier Baez and Justin Bour have struggled for the most part so far, the Smokies have had other players step up and one of them is Rubi Silva, who went 4 for 4 today and is hitting .429 in the series.  Silva was more of a rally starter than the RBI guy today, scoring 3 runs.
  • Speaking of different players stepping up, experienced infielder Jonathan Mota did just that today with a triple, single, and a walk.  He was a key factor in the scoring all night with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored.
  • The Smokies also got an unexpected but welcome contribution from backup catcher Taylor Davis, who doubled twice and drove in 2 runs.  He also scored a run.

Charlotte 3 - Daytona 2

  • This was looking very, very good early as Corey Black pitched in yet another dominant performance, going 6 innings and allowing  just one hit.  He walked 2 and struck out 2.  He continued a string of such dominant performances from the the D-Cubs staff but this time the bullpen couldn't close the deal.
  • Manager Dave Keller opted to go with the experienced Jeffrey Lorick in relief, who had pitched well in the playoff but the Stone Crabs got to him today with a solo HR, to bring them within 2-1 heading into the 9th.  It awas the only run Lorick allowed in 1.1 innings and he did get credit for a hold.
  • Austin Reed was then brought in and immediately allowed a double, but was not able to finish the frame as the rains came down and delayed the game, leaving the D-Cubs just 5 outs from a title.  When the rains stopped, Zach Cates was brought in and finished the inning with no further damage.  However, when Cates came back out for the 9th, he walked the leadoff batter.  How often is that the kiss of death?  After a sac bunt, Cates walked the next batter and then allowed a game tying single.  Jonathan Quinonez, who homered to break the shutout in the 8th was the hero as he finished his performance with a walk off single into RF.
  • Pin-Chieh Chen continued his strong series with a 3 hit day, scoring a run.  He's hitting .421 out of the leadoff spot.
  • Number 2 hitter Zeke DeVoss has been just as good and he went 1 for 2 with a walk.  He's hitting .429.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach drove in the D-Cubs first run with a single, driving in Chen.
  • Kris Bryant went 1 for 3 with a walk.  He singled in the 7th and came around to score on a Chadd Krist double for what, at the time, seemed like an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

 Vancouver 4 - Boise 2

  • It seems like everytime I ask about Paul Blackburn, the word I always hear somewhere in the response is "stud".  He was exactly that for the 2nd straight playoff start.  After allowing a first inning run, Blackburn settled down and shut Vancouver down on one hit the rest of the way.  In all he went 5 innings and allowed just 3 hits and the one run.  He walked just one batter and struck out 9.  It appears the Blackburn we saw early in the year is back.  Stud.
  • Corbin Hoffner has been one of the Hawks best pitchers all season but today was not his day.  Hoffner gave up  a run in the 6th and then 2 more in the 7th to put Boise in a 4-1 hole.  In all, he went 1.2 innings and allowed 5 hits and the 3 runs.
  • Jasvir Rakkar finished up with 1.1 scoreless innings to give Boise a chance but they were only able to get one closer.
  • Down 1-0, the Hawks immediately answered in the 2nd with a single from David Bote (1 for 3, BB) and an RBI double from Jordan Hankins (2 for 4).
  • The Hawks tried to rally in the 8th behind a pinch hit double from Jesse Hodges and an RBI single from Daniel Lockhart to make it 4-2, but were unable to capitalize any further despite loading the bases in the inning on walks from Rony Rodriguez and Justin Marra, but Bote struck out to end the threat.

Box Scores



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    Couple of notes on the Daytona game:
    The first batter Cates faced after the delay smoked a single to DeVoss in center who threw a laser that gunned down the would-be-tying run at home. His second highlight-reel play in as many days.
    Looked like they were living or dying with Cates, as nobody even started throwing in the pen when he walked two of the first three he faced in the 9th. He was throwing hard, but up in the zone and falling behind all night.
    Black was sitting at about 93 most of the night, but made some hitters look foolish with his off-speed stuff.
    Bryant looked better than expected at third, despite getting eaten up by a rocket one-hopper to his backhand side (would have been a great play had he made it). Arm looks great though.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Thanks Matt. Great stuff.

  • We've already heard about Maples simplifying his repertoire and showing vast improvement as a result. What if the opposite is true with Blackburn. With him being so hot and cold this season where he definitely showed the ability to dominate, lost it and then got it back in the playoffs right when it counts again, what are the chances that he spent time working on pitches in game situations and now that the playoffs have started, he's just going with what works...?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    that's a good point. Perhaps he's been working on things and now they're just letting him loose? Hmmm. Interesting thought.

  • I can't tell you how much I enjoy this blog and all the indepth insight. I have a question regarding Cubs Organizational Depth in regards to our minor league pitching. Is Blackburn a top 10 organizational prospect right now? Where does he rank with Pierce Johnson, CJ Edwards and Kyle Hendricks? Is there any chance we see him on any Top 100 lists. Thanks as always!

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    In reply to Sandberg2014:

    Blackburn probably would be Cubs top10 easy a couple years ago, now I think he just makes it or is off the list. Big 4, Alcantara, CJ, Pierce, Vogelbach definitely in front of him, and some other candidates after that depending on how you feel.

    I think Cubs will have 6 on BA top 100: The "Big 4", plus Alcantara and either CJ or Pierce. Blackburn no shot yet.

  • In reply to Sandberg2014:

    Thank you Sandberg. I like Blackburn a lot and to me he's in the top 15 range of prospects. Maybe top 10. When the season is over, I'll continue my organizational depth charts with the OF'ers and then SPs. Then I'll do an end of year top prospect list for the Cubs.

  • I was standing next to Matt when he took this picture of Danny. I gotta say I was impressed by Vogelbach's heart and energy in the clubhouse. I'd love to see him in Wrigley some day, although I suspect it's not going to happen.

  • In reply to JamesInFLA:

    Vogelbach is great. He's always cheering on his teammate, he's a huge competitor, and he does have some fun out there. No doubt thought that once he's at the plate or on the field, the fun stops. He's all business.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If he can hit for average and OBP as well as power at the major league level maybe he stays and maybe Rizzo goes. I know Rizzo has a glove, but Rizzo really has a problem with that inside curve and slider breaking in on him.

  • In reply to JamesInFLA:

    You never know what is going to happen. Just let him spend the next 2 years (at least) developing and enjoy him. I would not be surprised if he did end up in Wrigley but I would not bet the farm on it(if I had a farm).

  • The Smokies can win without Baez contribution, but I think that that HR yesterday was the big hit in the series so far. I really like that lineup of Szczur, Alcantara, Silva, Bour and Baez. Mota looked good earlier this summer as well. Is he one of those organization guys or more than that?

  • The deals for Hendricks, Edwards, and Black are looking better and better right now.

    Supplement these deals with Johnson, Blackburn, and Zastryzny coming in the draft, pitching is starting to look like a strength at the prospect level rather than a weakness.

    Vizcaino better get busy or he'll be the odd man out soon.

    I do wish they would stop messing with Alberto Cabrera though. First, he's a reliever, and he struggles at that. So he gets stretched out into a starter and does pretty well. Then they put him back in the 'pen, and he seems to be struggling again. For the love of Pete, quit messing with him physically and mentally!

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I really like the trade for Arietta and Strop too. Yes I agree with you this FO is adroitly restocking the farm system with position players and pitchers. They are using trades, drafting and international free agents/prospects. And they are also putting thought and money into development too. D. Johnson is probably the biggest boost the pitching could ask for. You got to be happy to be a Cub fan these days.

  • In reply to John57:

    Arietta is a roller coaster ride, but then so is Samardzijia. The question is will either one of them settle down to be a major league starter on a consistent basis or will they just be a flash that's here today and gone tomorrow. There's been a lot of those.

    As for whether I am happy to be a Cub fan these days, I can say that I have always been happy to be a Cub fan and will always be, no matter what they do. That's what over 50 years of being a Cub fan does to a person. LOL

    I do think they are on the right path with building the pool of talented players. I'm not nearly as satisfied with the managing and coaching with the big club though, and I fear that once they have more of the talent pool at the major league level, they will have to make significant changes in the manager and coaches in order to bring us into the post-season. That will take some additional time before we get to where we want to be.

  • I took in the Hawks game yesterday in Vancouver. Blackburn is definitely something. The runner that scored off him in the first initially reached on a slow roller that seemed to get him agitated. He also appeared to be unhappy with the mound, as he had occasional issues with his landing point. Then in the second he settled in and just went to work. He threw more off-speed stuff early but started to pump fastballs in the later innings for third strikes. The Nat Bailey Stadium gun had his ffastball pegged at a consistent 92. Earlier this season the same gun was hitting 94-95 for D-Backs prospect Braden Shipley so it's likely an accurate reading. He didn't need much more pepper in any case since his curve and change were working early. He'll need to work on his deception with that curve though. No-one got solid contact off him all day. Hoffner on the other hand, not so much.

    The Hawks offense hit the ball hard when they made contact, but just not enough contact made overall. Bote absolutely scalded one at the C's third baseman that nearly decapitated him for a single. That was the hardest-hit ball all day by either team. The Hawks definitely felt the absence of five players who couldn't make the trip to Canada due to passport/visa complications, including Jeffrey Baez, Penalver and Balaguert. They will have a tough time bringing home the NWL Championship tonight as the deciding game is in Vancouver again.

    Canadian baseball is alive and well in Western Canada...the C's have a good fan base that support their team well. Great setting as well in the middle of Queen Elizabeth park.

  • John, am I correct in assuming that the Hawks losing five of their players due to visa problems for the games in Vancouver was due to slow work by Canadian public employees (imagine that!) rather than lack of foresight by the Hawks? I know it took at least a year for Canada to issue my granddaugther's passport.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I don't know if that's true or not, to be honest. After Paniagua's visa fiasco this year, nothing would surprise me.

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