After the Smokies and Suns both clinched their respective semifinal series on Sunday, the stage was set for the Southern League Championship Series. The two teams battled it out each of the last two nights at Smokies Park in a rematch of the ’09 finals. The “Player of the Year” and “Pitcher of the Year” are announced by the Cubs organization.
All that and more in today’s Down on the Farm Report! AA-Tennessee Smokies
The Chicago Cubs announced their 2010 player awards for the minor league system on Monday. Not surprisingly based on the team’s success, Double-A players took home both awards.
Right-handed pitcher Chris Archer, a product of the Mark DeRosa trade with Cleveland, was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer, a Cubs’ fifth round draft pick in 2007, was named the Minor League Player of the Year. Both men will be honored at Wrigley Field prior to the Cubs game against the Cardinals on September 25.
Guyer spent the whole year at Tennessee, where he led the league in slugging percentage and OBP. He was the Smokies leading hitter at .344. Archer went 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA between High-A and Double-A this season! Chris and Brandon both proved that they were deserving of their awards on Tuesday night in the opening game of the Southern League finals. Archer got the win and Guyer went deep.
Game 1: Smokies 5, Suns 0
A four-run fourth inning was the turning point as the Tennessee Smokies bashed the Jacksonville Suns in game one of the Southern League Championship Series on Tuesday night. During that pivotal fourth, Brett Jackson drove in the first run on a ground-rule double. Then, Robinson Chirinos played the role of hero by launching a three-run homer over the left field wall.
Tennessee tacked on a run on a Brandon Guyer home run in the bottom of the sixth. The Guyer long ball allowed Chris Archer to feel even more comfortable as he turned the ball over to the bullpen. Archer was lights out, allowing no runs on four hits and eight strikeouts in six innings. He earned his first win of the postseason.
The Smokies ‘pen also overpowered the Suns hitters. Aaron Shafer, Blake Parker, and Esmailin Caridad each worked a one, two, three inning. Parker and Caridad each recorded a pair of strikeouts.
It only took two hours and 22 minutes to complete the contest. Tony Campana stole a base, had an outfield assistant, and scored a run. Robinson Chirinos finished 2-for-4 and the only hitless position player in the starting eight was Tony Thomas (0-for-4).
The Smokies did all of the damage against Jacksonville starter Elih Villanueva, who dropped to 1-1 in the postseason. Click for full box score.
Game 2: Suns 7, Smokies 6
The Smokies lost a wild one by a score of 7-6 at the hands of the visiting Suns on Wednesday night. Tennessee got on the board first in the second inning when Russ Canzler delivered an RBI double and then scored himself a run-scoring single by Marwin Gonzalez.
The Suns responded moments later by putting a four spot up in the top of the third against Chris Carpenter. Brandon Guyer homered for the second straight night to make it a 4-3 ballgame in the bottom of the third inning.
The two teams alternated fourth inning runs, the Smokies’ coming thanks to a Tony Thomas two-bagger and a sacrifice fly by Matt Spencer. The middle innings went quickly after all of the early-game scoring, and then Jacksonville scored an insurance run against Kyle Smit in the eighth to grab a 6-4 lead and seemingly seal the Smokies fate.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Smokies put together their much-needed rally. Russ Canzler and Tony Thomas stroked back-to-back singles to start the frame, and then they were bunted over to second and third by Marwin Gonzalez. D.J. LeMahieu lined out to second in a pinch-hit at-bat for the second out of the inning. Tony Campana came through with a single to drive in both runners and tie the game.
It didn’t stay tied for long. Ryan Curry started the ninth with a single off new pitcher Esmailin Caridad. He stole second as Steve Clevenger’s attempt to gun him down was wild. The costly overthrow allowed Curry to scamper to third. He scored on a fly ball to right field moments later to give the Suns a 7-6 edge.
The Smokies got a break in the bottom of the ninth when Guyer reached on an error by the shortstop, but they could not take advantage of the miscue. Blake Lalli came to the plate with the tying run on base, but he grounded into a double play to end it.
Russ Canzler continued his postseason surge with a 3-for-4 day. Campana and Thomas enjoyed multi-hit evenings as well. Chris Carpenter was charged with five runs on seven hits in just 3.2 innings. Marco Carrillo worked two shutout frames, Luke Sommer put a zero on the board, and Aaron Shafer struck out the only man he faced.
The series is tied at a game apiece going into a very important game three on Friday night. Click for full box score.
The Rest of the Series Schedule
The Southern League finals will take a day off today for travel. The venue will shift to Jacksonville for the rest of the series starting on Friday night. Friday’s start time is 6:05 CDT and Saturday’s game is at 6:35 CDT. If the two teams split these games, the Southern League Championship will be decided on Sunday night at 6:35.
Other Cubs Minor League Notes
Former Cubs left handed pitcher and top prospect Rich Hill is back on the big league mound. His contract has been purchased from AAA by the Boston Red Sox. Catcher Josh Donaldson was one of the Oakland A’s September call-ups. He was included as a lower level prospect in the deal that brought Rich Harden to Chicago.