Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 04/19/12

A win streak has moved to three games as Peoria seems to be putting things together while riding the hot bat of Oliver Zapata. Meanwhile, Daytona continues to struggle to have their pitching and offense show up for the same game. Tennessee also lost some momentum, as their offense was hard pressed for runs in two losses. In Iowa, their hitters keep pounding the ball, as their pitching staff gets pounded.

For the full stories … check out Thursday’s Down on the Farm Report.

Note: Monday’s report will cover games from Wednesday to Saturday. Thursday’s report covers games Sunday through Tuesday.

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (6-6)
It took eleven innings and two late rallies, but Sunday’s 5-3 win over Wisconsin may have been a turning point, as relief pitching and timely hitting finally came through. Things looked bleak for the Chiefs, as Willengton Cruz gave up three earned runs in 5.2 innings while striking out five batters. But the bullpen did their job, and held the Timber Rattlers scoreless the rest of the way. Luis Liria appeared to labor a bit, but struck out two in 2.1 innings. Andrew McKirahan scattered three hits over 1.2 innings while recording two strikeouts. Slamming the door was Yao-Lin Wang, who only allowed a two-out single in the 11th inning.

Eight of the starting nine players for Peoria hit safely, as Zeke DeVoss is starting to fulfill some of his leadoff potential. DeVoss was 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBI. However the big blow was administered by Oliver Zapata, who was starting his first Single-A ballgame. The 5-foot-9 Zapata smacked a solo home run in the top of the 11th, which put the Chiefs ahead for good. Zapata ended up 2-for-4 with a double, home run, and an RBI. Pin-Chieh Chen and Ryan Cuneo drove in Peoria’s other runs.

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The newest star to rise seems to be starter Michael Jensen, who raised his record to 3-0 as Peoria led all the way in a 6-2 victory over Cedar Rapids on Monday. Jensen went six innings and struck out five while only giving up a solo home run. Austin Reed entered in the seventh and allowed an earned run in two innings while ringing up three hitters. Jeffrey Lorick faced four batters in the ninth, walking one and striking out one to bring home the win.

Ryan Cuneo provided the thunder for the Chiefs. Cuneo was 3-for-4 with two, two-run home runs, and four RBI. Rafael Lopez set the table, as he was 2-for-4, scoring on both of Cuneo’s homers. Paul Hoilman provided protection for Cuneo, stroking two doubles as he was 2-for-2 and an RBI. Oliver Zapata hit his second round-tripper in two days (1-for-2 and an RBI).

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It what could be a turning point for Peoria this season, the Chiefs scored five runs in the final three innings to come from behind and defeat Cedar Rapids 7-6. The Midwest league has yet to find a way to handle Oliver Zapata, as he paced the attack by going 3-for-4 with a stolen base. Brad Zapenas and Pin-Chieh Chen were a big part of the comeback, each going 2-for-3, including a double, triple and RBI for Chen. Wes Darvill drove in two in his 1-for-3 performance. Rafael Lopez also had a triple while Ryan Cuneo tallied two RBI.

Peoria got in a hole as PJ Francescon allowed two earned runs, including one on his third home run pitch of the season, in 3.2 innings. Bryce Shafer continued to have trouble as he also gave up two earned runs (including a home run) in 1.1 innings. The pitching staff remained shaky as Scott Weismann also coughed up an earned run, but at least struck out three in two innings. The Chiefs then called on Yao-Lin Wang, who is emerging as the stopper, to slam the door on the Kernels tossing two scoreless innings for the win.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (2-10)
Starter Austin Kirk gave possibly his best performance since his Fourth of July no-hitter last year, but it became a wasted effort as Daytona lost to Dunedin 2-1 in 12 innings on Sunday. Kirk scattered four hits and allowed only one earned run over seven innings. AJ Morris recorded two outs in the eighth and Casey Harman shutout the Blue Jays for 2.1 innings while striking out two batters. Larry Suarez kept Dunedin off the board for an inning, but allowed two singles and a double with one out in the 12th to let in the winning run. The only Daytona run was driven in by Nelson Perez (1-for-4) after Matt Szczur (1-for-5) singled and was sacrificed to second by Rubi Silva (2-for-3, double). Szczur then stole third and came home on Perez’s single. John Andreoli was also 2-for-5 with a double.

Daytona had its best hitting performance of the season on Monday, recording 13 hits. But they weren’t able to convert those hits into runs as the D-Cubs ended up losing to Dunedin 6-3. Leadoff hitter Matt Szczur shook off his slump and went 4-for-5 with a run scored. Greg Rohan was 3-for-5 with a home run and two RBI. Everyone else in the Daytona line-up, except Sergio Burruel, recoded a hit. Starter Eric Jokisch struck out seven in six innings, but allowed four earned runs. Brian Schlitter held the Blue Jays scoreless for an inning while striking out a batter. But any hope for a comeback fell as Tony Zych allowed two earned runs in the eighth to put the game out of reach.

The performance of the D-Cubs must be exasperating for manager Brian Harper, as they scored seven runs on nine hits Tuesday, but still lost 8-7 to Dunedin. Daytona wasted home runs by Elieser Bonne (1-for-5, RBI) and Greg Rohan (2-for-3, two RBI). John Andreoli was 2-for-5 with a double, while Chad Noble was 2-for-4, including a double and two RBI. Hayden Simpson pitched well in his previous two starts, but his control failed him on Tuesday. Simpson walked four, gave up six hits, a wild pitch, a balk, and a home run as six earned runs came across in 2.2 innings. Joe Zeller failed to keep the Blue Jays in check, as he allowed an earned run while striking out two in two innings. Ty’Relle Harris kept Dunedin off the board for 1.1 innings, but Brett Wallach gave up what would be the game-winner in his inning of work. AJ Morris closed out the game with a scoreless inning.

Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (6-6)
Although Nick Struck and Tennessee played well enough to win on Sunday, they came out on the short end of 5-4 loss to Huntsville. Struck allowed two earned runs in five innings and the Smokies had outhit and outscored the Stars as he departed. Dan Berlind showed a glimmer of hope for his season, as he struck out a batter in a scoreless inning. However, Marcus Hatley wasn’t as lucky. Hatley allowed Huntsville to tie the score with two earned runs in the seventh, and an earned run to go ahead in the eighth. Leadoff hitter Elliot Soto set the table by going 2-for-4 with two doubles. Logan Watkins was on base four times with a single and three walks, as well as stealing a base. Jonathan Mota (1-for-4) and Michael Brenly (1-for-4) each drove in a run, and Rebel Ridling was 1-for-4.

Through seven innings on Monday, Tennessee was being no-hit by Huntsville. While the Smokies broke through with two runs in the eighth, it wasn’t enough as they ended up losing 5-2. Tennessee was held to four hits, with the big blows by Jonathan Mota and Juan Apodaca, each driving in a run. Trey McNutt provided the Smokies with a good start, allowing only one earned run and striking out three in four innings. However, Jeffry Antigua was hit hard, with four earned runs in 2.1 innings. Frank Batista came on to restore order in the seventh, striking out one of the two batter he faced. Alberto Cabrera mopped up by striking out two in a scoreless eighth.

Tuesday night’s game with Huntsville was postponed due to rain.

Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (7-6)
The I-Cubs brought out the lumber on Sunday, pounding out 22 hits. But it wasn’t enough as they fell 11-10 in 13 innings to Round Rock. It would be easier to list who didn’t have a multi-hit game, but the real star was Alfredo Amezaga. The second baseman was 5-for-7 with a double, RBI, and a stolen base; while Adrian Cardenas was 4-for-7 with an RBI. Three Iowa players hit home runs, including Blake Lalli (1-for-7, RBI). Tony Campana (3-for-4, RBI, stolen base) stroked one over the fence to leadoff the game, and Luis Valbuena (2-for-4, four RBI) belted a grand slam with two out in the second inning. Anthony Rizzo also stayed hot, going 3-for-7. The big problem was pitching, which was best illustrated by starter Randy Wells. The former big leaguer didn’t show anything resembling that kind of talent, allowing eight earned runs in 2.1 innings. Ryan Rowland-Smith poured gas on the fire, adding two earned runs in 2.2 innings to the Express’ total. Esmailin Caridad stemmed the tide by pitching two scoreless innings. Scott Maine was also up to the challenge as he was stretched to three shutout innings. Manny Corpas, pitching in his second consecutive day, may have been pushed too far as he allowed the game winning run after tossing 2.1 scoreless innings.

While it wasn’t the offensive output of the previous day, the I-Cubs scored just enough to edge Round Rock 3-2 on Monday. Iowa continued to be aggressive on the basepaths as Tony Campana (1-for-3) stole two bases and scored a run, while Brett Jackson (1-for-3) added another steal. Their speed helped take advantage of the defense, as Iowa scored two runs off of miscues by the Express. Alfredo Amezaga and Adrian Cardenas also recorded hits, as Dave Sappelt’s triple drove in the Cubs’ other run.

Casey Coleman had a short evening, allowing two earned runs and striking out three in 5.1 innings, before turning things over to the bullpen. Jeff Beliveau earned his first hold as he struck out a batter in two scoreless innings. In retiring five of the last seven batters, Blake Parker picked up his second save.

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It looked as if Iowa was going to run away with things on Tuesday night, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. But their pitching and defense let them down as they wound up losing 13-6 to Albuquerque. Chris Rusin should have been comfortable with the lead, but allowed six runs cross the plate … four were unearned due to an error by Anthony Rizzo and Blake Lalli’s passed ball. Rusin exited after an inning and was replaced by Frankie De La Cruz, who held the Isotopes to and earned run over four innings with two strikeouts. Nate Robertson followed and struggled mightily, allowing six earned runs (including a two-run and three-run home run) in three innings. The middle of the order for the I-Cubs continued to pound the ball, with Luis Valbuena, Anthony Rizzo, and Adrian Cardenas each 2-for-4.

News and Notes
The Iowa Cubs activated IF Edgar Gonzalez from the 7-day disabled list; OF Ty Wright was assigned to Tennessee. The Tennessee Smokies placed IF Matt Cerda on the 7-day disabled list.

CCO’s Prospect Watch

  • Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .255, two doubles, triple, home run, seven RBI (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Reggie Golden (OF) – is currently on the disabled list
  • Junior Lake (IF) – is currently inactive
  • Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .191, two RBI, four Stolen Bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .188, double (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .310, two doubles, eight RBI (Iowa Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training

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