It was a great day for pitching performances across all levels of the system.
Combined pitching line across the #Cubs four MiLB affiliates:
36 IP, 20 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 14 BB, 4 HBP, 51 K
3-1, 1.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP@IowaCubs came within 7 outs of a 2nd consecutive no-hitter.
Each staff punched out >10 batters.@smokiesbaseball @Pelicanbaseball @SBCubs — Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) May 12, 2021
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
Another day, another injury. Jake Marisnick hit the IL with a pulled hamstring. The Cubs have no more position players on the 40-man roster available in Iowa. Miguel Amaya and Christopher Morel are available in Tennessee, and though neither is ready for the Majors, the Cubs are one more injury away from requiring Morel’s multi-position versatility on the big club.
For the time being, the Cubs chose to elevate an extra pitcher (Brad Wieck) instead. But with Javy Baez getting scratched just before last night’s game with a still-balky back, Kris Bryant getting sick and needing to leave mid-game, and Jason Heyward still nursing a hand injury, the Cubs are running out of available players.
Coming off a combined no-hitter on Sunday afternoon, the I-Cubs pitchers returned to mound on Tuesday night and did their best to deliver another. Ultimately, they’d fall 7 outs short, when Dakota Mekkes gave up an opposite field shot which broke up the no-no and the I-Cubs streaks of no-hit and scoreless innings.
I missed the early portion of this game, so I can’t give a report on how Joe Biagini looked, but judging by the results… pretty good. The veteran extended the I-Cubs string of no-hit innings to 15.2 stretching back to the 9th inning of their extra inning win last Friday night (Iowa had a rainout and off day since). Despite constantly falling behind batters Mekkes came on and hurled another 1.2 hitless to extend the streak to 17.1 IP before giving up a solo homer. The homer also snapped a string of 19 scoreless innings by the Iowa staff.
Robert Stock came on throwing smoke over the final two innings, registering 101 on the gun several times and even hit 102 once. One of the hardest throwers around, the Cubs are helping him to simplify his mechanics, hone his slider, along with incorporating a two-seamer. At least last night the results looked good.
Let’s not forget to mention the bats. Iowa didn’t just pitch well, they won by double digits because the bats also came to play. P.J. Higgins led the way, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances. The 11-run outburst was as a group effort by the lineup, as they managed it without hitting a home run. Just about everyone had a big hit during the game.
I’m really not sure what else Higgins (.350/.480/.600 in 6 G) needs to do to get a chance to prove he is better than Austin Romine and/or Tony Wolters. I know those two have solid defensive reps, but they are complete zeroes with the bat. I personally think Higgins can help a little in both facets. The Cubs continually decide to look elsewhere, however.
- Joe Biagini: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K (W, 1-1)
- Robert Stock: 2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
- P.J. Higgins: 3-3, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
- Cameron Maybin: 2-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB
- Taylor Gushue: 2-4, 4 RBI
- Jose Lobaton: 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI
- Abiatal Avelino: 1-4, 3 R, 2 BB, SB (2)
- Rafael Ortega: 1-4, 2 R, RBI, BB
- Sergio Alcantara: 1-4, BB
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
The Cubs acquired former White Sox 2nd rounder Trayce Thompson from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations. The I-Cubs have consistently played short-handed due as injuries mount in Chicago. It’s been years since the outfielder put up any kind of solid production in MLB or AAA, but he is an experienced, warm body. Which Iowa is desperate for, despite their early success (4-2).
The Cubs also added Adrian Sampson to the Iowa pitching staff. Sampson has at least has been a productive swingman in the PCL over the years, though he’s struggled in Major League action.
Tennessee 4, Rocket City 3 (10 Innings)
Cam Sanders ran into some control issues, but his stuff was pretty impressive once again. Crafty Scott Effross, fast riser Cayne Ueckert and power arm Manny Rodriguez were effective, without the wildness.
Tyler Payne continued his hot start at the plate, hitting his first homer on the year. The 28-year old backstop has been an extra-base machine in the early going. I haven’t paid much attention to utility man Levi Jordan so far this year, but he’s off to strong start as well.
- Levi Jordan: 2-4, HR (1), R, 2 RBI
- Tyler Payne: 2-4, HR (1), R, RBI
- Zach Davis: 3-5, 2B, CS (2)
- Miguel Amaya: 2-5, SB (2)
- Cam Sanders: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, HBP, 7 K
- Scott Effross: 2.2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
- Cayne Ueckert: 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K (W, 1-0)
- Manuel Rodriguez: IP, 0 H, 0 R, BB, 2 K (S, 1)
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
Ben Hecht put out a picture with his arm in a sling reporting he is out for the 2021 season. Can only assume it was TJS.
Tennessee and South Bend swapped relief arms, with 2019 27th round pick Cayne Ueckert receiving a quick promotion to AA. Juan Gamez heads to SB to make room.
As Iowa flirted with another no-no, South Bend narrowly averted being the victims of a perfect game. Only a one-out double by Jacob Olson in the 8th kept the Snappers from recording a clean sheet.
While a big part of the excitement so far has been the velocity gains among many of the Cubs pitching prospects, we shouldn’t overlook the crafty guys. Peyton Remy fits that mold. He only sits in the low-90s, but everything moves, and his changeup looks good.
- Peyton Remy: 5 IP, 4 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K (L, 0-1)
- Brandon Hughes: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
- Jacob Olson: 1-3, 2B
Undrafted free agent Matt Mervis joined the club after missing the first week due to injury. A left-handed first baseman with power potential, Mervis was considered one of the top college bats who went unselected in last summer’s five round draft. He wasted no time making an impact as he celebrated his pro debut with a two out, three-run double in the 8th, turning a one run deficit into a two run lead.
The Pelicans were only within striking distance thanks to a stellar bullpen outing, most notably by another UDFA, Joe Nahas, who punched out six while allowing just one base runner across four innings. Lefty Scott Kobos made the game interesting in the 9th, as he loaded the bases, but wriggled off the hook as all three outs he recorded came via strikeout.
WATCH: In their first game back in Myrtle Beach in 628 days, @Pelicanbaseball opens the 2021 home slate with a 4-2 comeback win over the @GreenJackets.@wmbfnews @ajlaskey @Darius_Hill32 @EdmondAmericaan #MiLB pic.twitter.com/UDbnFhNcAt— WMBF Sports (@wmbfsports) May 12, 2021