Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 08/09/10

It’s crunch time for minor league teams fighting for playoff spots. The Chiefs are in the middle of a big series against the first place River Bandits. The Smokies are trying to fend off the second place Stars in a set between the two Southern League foes. The Daytona Cubs are ready to host the Tampa Yankees, who they trail by one game in the standings. The Iowa Cubs are looking good but have to perform well in some big games down the stretch as they try to hold onto their division crown.

Micah Hoffpauir, Brad Snyder and Bryan LaHair have been fighting for the I-Cubs team lead in home runs. One Cubs affiliate forfeited a game this weekend. Several up and coming pitchers in the Cubs system had great outings in their recent starts.

All that and more in today’s Down on the Farm Report!

AAA-Iowa Cubs – (67-48)
The Iowa Cubs recent five-game winning streak has helped them build up a five game lead in the PCL American North. Memphis is the second place team and Omaha and Nashville are hanging in the race in a very strong division. With the end of the regular season looming, it could come down to the final series of the year when the I-Cubs and Red Birds meet for a four game set September 3-6.

Brian Schlitter returned to Ryne Sandberg’s bullpen on Thursday when he was sent down from the Cubs. Veteran Jason Dubois, who keeps hanging around in the Cubs system, was placed on the 7-day DL with a right ankle injury.

A five-run seventh inning was the difference in the I-Cubs 8-3 takedown of the Tacoma Rainiers on Thursday. Bryan LaHair and Micah Hoffpauir both drilled two-run homers in that seventh. Micah and Bryan are still tied for the team lead in home runs as they both hit their 18th. Marquez Smith went deep in the second inning and later singled to complete a two-hit night. Sam Fuld showed off his patience at the plate drawing three walks. Jeff Samardzija allowed only one run in six innings to improve his record to 9-1 and his ERA to 3.09. Jeff Gray got his third hold, allowing only a walk and striking out four in two innings. Click for full box score.

Iowa beat the Rainiers for the third straight night on Friday, this time by a final of 11-6. Three different I-Cubs homered in the third inning. Brad Snyder hit his 18th and Bryan LaHair took over the team lead with 19. Marquez Smith went deep in the third and again in the fourth. He had three homers in the span of two days to increase his season total to seven. LaHair’s sole possession of the team lead in homers didn’t last long as Hoffpauir delivered the team’s fifth of the day and his 19th of the season in the fifth inning. Jay Jackson did not pitch well, serving up three homers of his own on a day in which the ball was flying out of Principal Park. Jackson was charged with five earned runs but still got the win thanks to his team’s prolific offense. Click for full box score.

The Cubs completed the four-game sweep with a 7-3 victory on Saturday. Austin Bibens-Dirkx hurled another quality start, allowing three runs on five hits in six innings. He is now a perfect 4-0 since being recalled from Tennessee. The Rainiers couldn’t muster up a single hit in three innings against a tough Iowa pen as Jeff Stevens, Scott Maine, and Marcos Mateo all retired the side in order. Darwin Barney and Matt Camp both had three hit days. Click for full box score.

The offense went right back to work on Sunday as the Iowa Cubs extended the winning streak to five with a 9-6 victory over Portland. Micah Hoffpauir was 4-for-4 with a homer, three RBI, two doubles, and three runs scored. Hoff, who has gotten his average up to a respectable .272, was a triple away from the cycle. Matt Camp, who’s been playing third base on a regular basis, homered and walked twice. Chris Robinson got the start behind the dish and drove in three runs including a big two-run double in the seventh. Jeff Gray allowed the Beavers to take the lead with three runs in the seventh, but Iowa bounced right back and Gray ended up getting the win. Click for full box score.

Iowa Cubs Player of the Week: Micah Hoffpauir
Micah has put the Power in Hoff-Power this week by launching several home runs and racking up extra base knocks. He started the year slowly after he was one of the final men cut from big league Spring Training, but in the summer months Micah has started to hit the ball well. He is in the midst of a 16-game hitting streak, which is the longest for an I-Cubs player this season and the longest active streak in the PCL. Hoffpauir, who’s batting .316 since June 1, is tied with Brad Snyder for the team lead in RBI with 84 and with Bryan LaHair for the team lead in home runs with 19.

Upcoming Games and Probable Pitchers:
*All Times CDT
Tonight VS Portland 7:05 (Hung-Wen Chen)
Tuesday VS Portland 7:05 (Jeff Samardzija)
Wednesday VS Portland 12:05 (Jay Jackson)

AA-Tennessee Smokies – (69-43, 27-16)
The Smokies are already in the postseason, and now they like their chances of a North division crown repeat in the second half. Tennessee is currently locked in an important four-game series with the second place Huntsville Stars. So far Bill Dancy’s squad has proved to be a well-balanced one that puts runs on the board and gets good outings from their starting pitchers. Can they stay consistent down the stretch and into the mid-September start of the playoffs?

The game was tied at two going to the seventh in Montgomery on Thursday, but the Smokies bats came to life late to beat the Biscuits 11-3. Matt Spencer hit a grand slam and a three-run homer to rack up seven RBI. Tony Campana went 4-for-5 with a single, two doubles, and a triple. Tony needed only a homer to hit for the cycle. Brett Jackson did have a single and a run batted in, but he looked baffled at the plate in every other AB, resulting in four strikeouts. Chris Archer continued his break out season allowing only two runs (one ER) despite issuing five walks. Click for full box score.

The Smokies topped the Biscuits 6-1 on Friday to come back and take three of five in the series after dropping the first two. Campana had another big night and drove in three runs. Jackson had no hits in four tries as the Tennessee designated hitter. Rafael Dolis was very effective allowing only one run in five innings. Ryan Butcher and Aaron Shafer went two scoreless innings each. Click for full box score.

Six different Smokies had multi-hit games, Chris Carpenter pitched a gem, and Tennessee clobbered their rivals from Huntsville 9-2 for their fourth straight win. Carpenter mowed down the Stars allowing only three hits over six innings without surrendering a run. Chris struck out eight and walked two on his way to his eighth win. Brett Jackson, Blake Lalli, Tony Thomas, and Marwin Gonzalez all drove in runs in the first inning before Carpenter staked himself to a juicy lead with a two-run single to right to complete an opening frame in which the Smokies scored six times. Click for full box score.

Sunday, the Smokies pounded the Stars 13-3 even though they were out-hit 10-9. The Huntsville pitching staff issued seven walks, a number of which came around to score runs. Jackson, Canzler, and Clevenger all had two walk games. Brett also had two hits including a second inning solo homer. Brandon Guyer (3-for-5, 3 RBI) and Tony Thomas (2-for-5, 3 RBI) went deep as well. Chris Rusin got his first Double-A win limiting the damage to just one run on eight hits. Click for full box score.

Tennessee Smokies Player of the Week: Tony Campana
Campana is no stranger to being named the CCO’s player of the week because he’s having a terrific year as the Smokies leadoff hitter. The left handed hitting outfielder has a .332 batting average in 106 Southern League games. This past week he hit .444 with a four hit game and four multi-hit games. Tony does not have a lot of power, no home runs and just 30 RBI for the year, but he’s been a table setter at the top of the lineup for Tennessee. The 13th round pick in 2008 leads the team in batting average and stolen bases. He has swiped 38 bases but has been caught 18 times.

Upcoming Games and Probable Pitchers:
*All Times CDT
Tonight VS Huntsville 6:15 (Craig Muschko)
Tuesday VS Huntsville 6:15 (Chris Archer)
Wednesday VS Huntsville 6:15 (Rafael Dolis)

Class-A Advanced Daytona Cubs – (61-51, 27-15)
After two weeks of nothing but winning, the Daytona Cubs were outplayed by Bradenton and Jupiter this week which resulted in a 1-5 record in their last six. The D-Cubs are still very much alive in their division, just a game behind the first place Tampa Yankees. Both teams have 27 wins, but the Yanks lead by two in the loss column. After an off day on Sunday, they have a big series starting tonight as they host Tampa for three games this week.

The Cubs suffered a 7-2 defeat to Jupiter on Thursday and saw their losing skid extend to four after a 14-game winning streak. A two-run homer in the fourth by Ryan Flaherty was it for the Daytona scoring. Alberto Cabrera was hit fairly hard, four runs on ten hits in six innings, which led to his fourth loss. David Patton served up three insurance runs in the seventh. Click for full box score.

The D-Cubs got back in the win column by holding on for a 3-2 victory on Friday. The Hammerheads scored twice against Casey Lambert and James Leverton in the eighth, but Mike Perconte got the save in the ninth even though he walked two. Trey McNutt worked six masterful innings giving up only three hits and no runs. He struck out seven and is now 3-0 since being moved up to the FSL. Rebel Ridling went 3-for-4 and launched a solo homer in the eighth for a tally that proved to be the difference in the game. Click for full box score.

D.J. LeMahieu had two singles, Mark Reed homered, Brooks Raley pitched a gem, but Jupiter still found a way to beat Daytona 4-2 in the series finale. Reed’s seventh inning two-run bomb broke the scoreless tie, but the Hammerheads scored three eighth inning runs against Chris Siegfried and Oswaldo Martinez to come out on top. Brooks Raley was removed with two outs in the seventh after allowing only one run on five hits in a very solid start. Click for full box score.

Daytona Cubs Player of the Week: Trey McNutt
McNutt has been fantastic all season long. He was the Peoria ace earlier in the year … posting a 6-0 record with a 1.51 ERA in 13 Midwest League starts. Trey has been moved up a notch to Daytona, and has stepped his game up a notch as well. He is the owner of a 2.53 ERA and three victories in the Florida State League, and now has a perfect 9-0 combined mark on the season. McNutt went 11 total innings last week in two starts, allowing no runs and just five hits. The right-handed pitcher was a 32nd round draft pick in 2009 out of Shelton Community College.

Upcoming Games:
*All Times CDT
Tonight VS Tampa 6:05
Tuesday VS Tampa 6:05
Wednesday VS Tampa 6:05

Class-A Peoria Chiefs – (58-51, 20-20)
The Chiefs are at .500 since the start of the second half. They have five teams in front of them in the Western division standings, but they are just four games back of the first place tie between Kane County and Quad Cities. An August surge could push the Chiefs into the playoff picture, but they have to take it one win at a time.

The Chiefs bats exploded for a 13-1 bashing of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Brewers organization on Thursday. Justin Bour hit a grand slam in the eighth inning and ended up driving in six on the night. His granny was part of a six run Peoria eighth that broke the game wide open. Matt Cerda and Logan Watkins each drove in a pair of runs. Su-Min Jung cruised through five innings, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks. He is now 7-3 on the year. Click for full box score.

Peoria salvaged the series split by beating Wisconsin 3-1 on Friday. Jae-Hoon Ha gave the Chiefs all their offense on one swing, a three-run homer in the sixth. It was all the pitching staff would need as Chris Hatley worked two shutout innings and Nick Struck managed to only surrender one run despite walking six in 5.2 innings. Corey Martin came on to get the final four outs for his third save a Chief. Click for full box score.

After a pitchers’ duel on Friday night, the Chiefs and Quad Cities River Bandits engaged in a slug-off on Saturday. Peoria fell 9-8, leaving the tying run in scoring position in the ninth when Hak-Ju Lee was retired on a fly ball to center. Mario Mercedes, Tony Giansanti, and Ha drove in two runs each. Brett Wallach was hit hard allowing seven runs (only 4 ER) in 3.1 innings because of four walks, a homer, and a wild pickoff throw. Thanks to some early run support, Brett got a no-decision and avoided falling to 0-2 since being traded to the Cubs. Click for full box score.

Brandon May and Justin Bour had two hits each, Ryan Searle pitched a gem, and the Chiefs downed the River Bandits 4-0 on Saturday. Searle worked 6.2 shutout innings allowing just four hits and one walk. He struck out eight on his way to his sixth win. Steven Grife allowed only one man to reach against him in a 2.1 inning save. Click for full box score.

Peoria Chiefs Player of the Week: Brandon May
May has wasted no time in making a good impression on his new team since being promoted from Boise. He is 5-for-12 (.417 AVG) in three games with the Chiefs so far. May has enjoyed multi-hit games on two separate occasions in his first week in the Midwest League. He ripped three homers and drove in 14 with the Hawks in 17 games before being called up. Brandon was a 36th round pick of the 2009 draft but has made significant improvements to his numbers since entering the pro ranks.

Upcoming Games:
*All Times CDT
Tonight VS Quad Cities 7:00
Tuesday VS Quad Cities 7:00
Wednesday VS Beloit 7:00

Updates from Boise/Mesa
The Boise Hawks are looking to take advantage of a new structure to the Northwest League playoffs. The Hawks are just 3-9 in the second half, but they are just 4.5 games behind first place Yakima. If they win the division, they will clinch a playoff spot. If first half champion Spokane wins the division, the Hawks will only need to finish second to earn a spot in the postseason.

They had an interesting loss in Everett on Saturday where manager Jody Davis pulled the team off the field and forfeited the game. There was an 80-minute rain delay prior to the start of the contest, and then after another 20-minute delay in the second inning Davis wouldn’t send his team back onto the sloppy field.

The Hawks had been slipping and sliding all over the place and were down 2-0. Jody did not want to risk injury to any of the young players, but the umpire ruled that the conditions were not unplayable. The Everett Aquasox was awarded a 9-0 victory (one run for each inning of a regulation game).

The Mesa Cubs have a record of 17-20, 7.5 games back of the Giants for the AZL East lead. John Grabow is expected to join the Mesa team for rehab this week.

Remember
If you have any questions or comments regarding my posts, feel free to email me at cubsblogmailbag@aol.com. All suggestions are welcome. Also, I write a blog where I post daily on the Chicago Cubs over at www.everythingcubs.blogspot.com. For more minor league updates you can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates.

Quote of the Day

For Kane County ... "I've paid my dues, time after time. I've done my sentence, but committed no crime. And bad mistakes, I've made a few. I've had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I've come through ... and I need just go on, and on, and on ... We are the champions, my friends." 
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