Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Eugene Emeralds complete one of the most improbable championships of all-time in, well in improbable fashion: a walk-off balk

Eugene Emeralds Championship team (photo by Jared Ravich courtesy of MiLB.com)

Eugene Emeralds Championship team (photo by Jared Ravich courtesy of MiLB.com)


Eugene 3, Spokane 2

Game Recap

Eugene won their first three playoff games by identical 3-2 scores. They ruined the symmetry with a 4-0 shutout victory on Monday, but returned right back to their comfort zone Tuesday to close out one of the most improbable championships of all time. And of course it ended in one of the most improbable manners imaginable.

The Emeralds took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st. Nelson Velazquez doubled and then scored courtesy of a Spokane error on the next play. Starting pitcher Eury Ramos quickly relinquished the advantage as Spokane plated a run in the next frame to tie it, and then took a one run lead in the 4th on a solo home run by Sherton Apostel.

The game remained 2-1 Spokane all the way until the bottom of the 9th as the Eugene bullpen continued to post zeroes up on the scoreboard, just as they have done throughout the playoff run. Jonathan Sierra led off the final frame with a single. One out later, Fernando Kelli also singled, which put the winning run on base in the form of the Ems speediest man. But Kelli would not last long as the next batter, pinch hitter Yonathan Perlaza hit a ground ball and Spokane was able to force Kelli out at 2nd base. This put the Ems down to their final out, but with the tying run on third. With another pinch hitter at the plate, this time Jake Slaughter, Perlaza swiped second to put the winning run in scoring position. Slaughter would be hit by a pitch to load the bases.

This provided Andy Weber with the chance to be the hero. Two outs, bases loaded, championship on the line. Weber worked the count full and then drew a walk a walk to bring the tying run home.

Then, the improbable occurred. With Nelson Velazquez at the plate, Spokane pitcher Emmanuel Clase appeared to get his cleats caught in the dirt during his windup, causing a balk, which brought in the championship clinching run from third in the form of Yonathan Perlaza.

It is only fitting that the team with the worst record in the Northwest League wins the championship on a walk-off balk.

Top Performers

  • Peyton Remy: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K
  • Fauris Guerrero: 0.2 IP, 0 R, BB, K
  • Ethan Roberts: 0.1 IP, 0 R, BB (W)
  • Eury Ramos: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K
  • Nelson Velazquez: 1-3, 2B, R, BB
  • Fernando Kelli: 2-4
  • Grant Fennell: 1-3, BB
  • Yonathan Perlaza: 0-1, R, SB

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

The Eugene Emeralds finished the Northwest League regular season with the worst overall record, but found themselves in the playoffs thanks to a 17-21 second half that somehow ended up being good enough to earn a wild card berth. So, of course they would go on to not only win the title, but sweep their way through the playoffs, winning all five games.

The biggest factor in the Emeralds championship run would have to be the bullpen. They fired 25 shutout innings across the club's five playoff games. That's right, they did not allow a run during the playoffs, and actually pitched more total innings than the starters. The team won four of their five games by a single run. Take a look at this overall stat line:

  • 25 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 7 BB, 31 K

The Cubs Minor League system has produced at least one championship in each of the past 6 seasons. I've been told the big league club may have done something of note during that same span, but that's small potatoes, and I mean, they only did it once. This was the third consecutive season the Emeralds reached the NWL Championship Series and their second title.

Thank you to all the readers who stuck with me throughout the Minor League season. It's been a blast. I'll continue to have coverage of the system and the prospects throughout the offseason, though likely not on a daily basis. Tom will have coverage of the AFL and Winter Leagues as he did last year.


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    Thank you Michael. This is always a bitter sweet time--I love that we won a championship but this means months and months of no recaps. You do so well and have been a great successor to John. Enjoy your time off.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Nicely said. I agree wholeheartedly! Thank you very much Michael!

  • Thanks for the recaps Michael. I enjoy reading them and you insite. Onward!

  • Yes like the others have said Thanks Michael for the outstanding work on the recaps. Enjoy your break.

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    I was at the game (actually the guy filming on his phone above the Toyota logo there lol). I will also add to the improbable...Yonathan Perlaza's grounder should have been a game ending double play for Spokane...Perlaza tripped and face-planted on the base path running to first. The play at second was a bit tricky, but Biggers (the SS who handled the toss by 2B Arias) fell down on the play when Kelli slid hard into the bag. Biggers had an easy play at first if he realized it in time, but wasn't looking towards first - probably assuming Perlaza was already there. Perlaza was able to get up and keep running and was just a step short of first when Biggers finally looked over. That extended the game for the madness that ensued.

  • In reply to Weekendroady:

    Nice. Thanks for the details.

  • Thanks Michael. I always look forward to your recaps. Appreciate all of your hard work and your observations, they always seem to be spot on.

  • Michael, Thank you for your work on the recaps and prospect reports. Not sure what I’ll do in the morning while I drink my coffee, for the next few months. Enjoy your break and catch up on some well deserved rest.

  • In reply to flinthillsfarmer:

    I'll still be writing, just more likely 3-4 articles per week rather than 7.

  • I just saw footage of the balk that ump Was super emphatic with the call

    Look like a wrestling promo loll

  • Nice article about UDFA Caleb Knight, doubt he becomes a starter in the majors but looks to be a great pickup by the Cubs FO.
    Seen as a great leader, Valedictorian of his HS, won a GG at Connors State college in 2016 was also named the NJCAA Div 1 DPOTY. Had a .989 fielding percentage in 84 games as a catcher at the UVA.

  • Thanks, Michael. Some of the best stuff on this really awesome blog has been the Milb recaps.

  • Congrats to the Emeralds! And congrats to Nelson Velazquez as well--forcing balks is one of the highly underestimated hitting skills, and it's great that Nelson has it (;-).

  • Of course, thanks to you Michael for all of your distinguished work this season!

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