Thrills, chills, and spills abound in the roller coaster ride that was the Cubs minor league system this week. Blowouts occurred, but who was on the winning end? The tightrope act that is the Tennessee Smokies kept viewers on the edge of their seats. Paul Hoilman now sports an 18-game hitting streak, while Nelson Perez had a career day. And don’t look now, but those objects appearing in your rearview mirror and coming up fast are Taiwan Easterling and Elieser Bonne.
All that and more are in today’s Down on the Farm Report …
Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (11-18)
On Wednesday, the Chiefs flashed some leather at times, but defense and pitching became their undoing as they lost 6-3 to Kane County. PJ Francescon was in command for most of the game, striking out five in seven innings. However, one got away from him, and the cost was a three run homer in the second inning. Francescon was aided by several defensive plays, including a leaping grab by Zeke DeVoss (1-for-5, double, RBI) and an outfield assist by Taiwan Easterling (1-for-4, double), who, with DeVoss’ relay, nailed a runner at the plate.
With the game tied at three in the eighth, Yao-Lin Wang struggled mightily with his control, only recording an out as he walked two and allowed three runs (one earned). The unearned runs came on third baseman Wes Darvill’s (1-for-4) error. Andrew McKirahan displayed some wicked breaking pitches, striking out a batter, but couldn’t make up for the error as he gave up a two-run single. Peoria scored first as Darvill came home on a double by Paul Hoilman (2-for-4, two doubles, RBI). Pin-Chieh Chen (2-for-3, stolen base), scored the other two runs.
Peoria was able to turn the tables on Thursday, as they took advantage of mistakes by Kane County in order to post a 4-3 victory. The Chiefs were down 3-1 in the top of the seventh when Rafael Lopez (2-for-4, double) and Oliver Zapata (2-for-4) were able to score on an error by the Cougars on a grounder by Yaniel Cabezas (1-for-4, RBI). Peoria would take the lead on a single by Marco Hernandez (1-for-4, RBI). Pin-Chieh Chen was also 3-for-3 with a double and a stolen base.
Jose Rosario labored through 5.2 innings, giving up 10 hits and walking two, but was able to strike out six batters and kept Kane County to three runs, one being earned. Austin Reed was at the top of his form, blanking the Cougars for two innings with three strikeouts. Jeffrey Lorick made things interesting by giving up two hits in the ninth, but hung on to record his third save.
Manager Casey Kopitzke rolled the dice on Friday night, and came up snake eyes as Peoria lost 4-3 to Kane County. Kopitzke gambled by placing first baseman Ryan Cuneo in left field, who played a fly ball into a double in the bottom of the seventh to allow the Cougars to take the lead at 3-2. Kane County scored first as starter Kyler Burke gave up a solo home run in the fifth inning to give them a 1-0 lead. Burke went 6.1 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out three batters. The Chiefs came back in the seventh on a triple by Marco Hernandez (2-for-4, triple, RBI) that plated Taylor Davis (0-for-3, walk). Hernandez latered score on a passed ball. Peoria tied it in the ninth as Paul Hoilman (1-for-4, double) led off with a double and came home on a wild pitch two batters later. Luis Liria worked out of jams in the sixth and seventh, holding Kane County scoreless for 1.2 innings with a strikeout. However, Bryce Shafer came on in the ninth and gave up a free pass and a walk-off single. Taiwan Easterling helped keep the Chiefs in the game by going 2-for-4 with a double and an outfield assist, his fourth of the series.
All I can say is…whoa! Peoria pitching allowed 23 hits and 20 runs to cross the plate on Saturday as they were thoroughly embarrassed by Quad Cities 20-5. After allowing 12 earned runs in his last two starts, Gerardo Concepcion was taken off the hook a bit with errors by Wes Darvill and Marco Hernandez accounting for five unearned runs. However, Concepcion still gave up four hits and a walk after the errors, ending his night with seven runs allowed (two earned) and two strikeouts in an inning. Willengton Cruz didn’t fare much better, giving up seven earned runs with two strikeouts in 2.2innings. The misery continued with Yao-Lin Wang letting in four earned runs in two innings, as he is now struggling with his command. Andrew McKirahan had been more reliable lately, but even he wasn’t able to get the job done and gave up two earned runs in 0.2 innings. Finally, Jeffrey Lorick was able to solve Bandit hitting, working 0.2 of a scoreless inning. The most effective pitcher of the night was first baseman Ryan Cuneo (2-for-4), who set down a probably tired Quad Cities club in order in the eighth. Along with Cuneo, Zeke DeVoss and Taiwan Easterling were the only hitters of note, each going 2-for-5. Paul Hoilman extended his hitting streak to eighteen games by going 1-for-3 with a triple and driving in two runs.
High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (9-20)
Frustration appears to be heading to the surface for Daytona, as they dropped Wednesday’s game 6-4 to Clearwater. Starter Eric Jokisch showed the highs and lows of his season, as the Florida State League’s fourth best strikeout pitcher recorded seven in six innings, but allowed two home runs (second in the league). Jokisch finished with a total of three earned runs for his appearance. Down by a run in the sixth, Rubi Silva (0-for-3) was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Things then compounded in the seventh as an error by Richard Jones (1-for-4, double, RBI) paved the way for two unearned runs. Scott Weismann made his D-Cub debut and struck out two over two innings. Daytona tried to rally with a run in the seventh and another in the ninth, but AJ Morris allowed an earned run in the top of the ninth to seal the deal. John Andreoli and Greg Rohan each ended the day at 2-for-4 with a double.
There were finally some positive signs in Daytona on Thursday, as the D-Cubs stormed back to claim a 6-5 victory over Clearwater. Matt Loosen got the start and continued to be limited, pitching only three innings and giving up three earned runs while striking out two batters. But the first bright spot of the day was Hayden Simpson, who struck out four in four scoreless innings to record his first win of the season. Tony Zych made things closer than necessary by allowing two earned runs while striking out three in his two innings of work, as he picked up his third save.
Rubi Silva was able to shake off a poor showing the previous day by going 2-for-4 with a home run, stolen base, and an RBI from the lead-off slot. Nelson Perez was also 2-for-4, driving in two while adding a solo homer. Arismendy Alcantara put Daytona in the lead for good, as his three-run blast in the sixth completes his 2-for-4, three RBI day.
Things got off to a good start on Friday, but a good offensive effort was spoiled as Daytona lost 6-5 to Jupiter. The D-Cubs received contributions from Rubi Silva (1-for-4, double), Greg Rohan (2-for-4, two doubles) Nelson Perez (1-for-3, two RBI) and John Andreoli (1-for-4, triple) to go up 4-1 over the Hammerheads. However, starter Zach Cates wasn’t able to hold the lead, allowing four earned in three innings. Joe Zeller was able to restore some order, but got tagged with the loss. Zeller went three innings and gave up an earned run. Eduardo Figueroa and AJ Morris held Jupiter scoreless the rest of the way, but the offense couldn’t manage any more than a run in the third.
It appears that the bats have begun to awaken in Daytona, as a good, old-fashion laugher on Saturday saw them defeat Jupiter 11-1. Keeping the Hammerheads in check was starting pitcher Frank Del Valle, who’s only blemish was a solo home run in six innings. Left-handers continued to dazzle Jupiter, as Scott Weismann struck out four in two scoreless innings. Ty’Relle Harris mopped up in the ninth, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out a batter to shutout the visitors the rest of the way.
Now, for the happy totals on offense: It clearly must have been one of the best days in Nelson Perez’s career, as he was 5-for-5, including his fifth home run and two RBI. Hitting symmetry continued with Arismendy Alcantara and Elieser Bonne, who were each 4-for-5 with a triple, RBI, and a stolen base. Matt Szczur was 3-for-5 with two doubles, while Richard Jones drove in three as he was 1-for-4 with a double.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (13-17)
After a disappointing loss on Tuesday, the Smokies’ bats came back with a vengeance on Wednesday, as they pounded out 13 hits in route to a 9-5 win over Mobile. The top of the order did the damage, as Logan Watkins and Jae-Hoon Ha were each 3-for-5, with Watkins hitting his third triple of the season. Justin Bour drove in two, as he was 2-for-4 with a double. Swinging a hot bat, Jonathan Mota stroked his third homer of the season, as he was 3-for-4 and three RBI. James Adduci added a solo shot as he was 1-for-3, plating two runs.
Benefitting from this outburst was Nick Struck, who allowed four runs (three earned) while striking out three over his 5.1 innings, in what was not his best performance. Casey Weathers has been settling down, as he held the Biscuits scoreless for 1.2 innings. However, Casey Harman let Mobile back into the game, as he gave up an earned run in his inning of work. Alberto Cabrera had good command, as he retired the side in the ninth on 10 pitches, including a strikeout.
The Smokies couldn’t overcome a rocky third inning, as they lost 7-4 to Montgomery on Thursday. Errors by Matt Cerda (1-for-3, double) and starter Trey McNutt opened the floodgates, as six runs streamed across home plate for the Biscuits. McNutt would be lifted after going 2.2 innings, with two of the five runs he allowed being earned. Ryan Searle wasn’t able to limit the damage, as he let in another two earned runs in 4.1 innings. Jeffry Antigua was the lone Tennessee pitcher to go without giving up a run, as he struck out two in two innings. Jae-Hoon Ha continued to build on his recent success. Ha was 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Justin Bour (1-for-4) plated three runs by slugging his third home run of the season.
It was more of the same on Friday, as three unearned runs were the deciding factor in Tennessee’s 8-7 loss to Montgomery. The Smokies’ offense answered a 1-0 deficit in the second inning by putting up five runs in the bottom half. Leading the charge was Matt Cerda (2-for-3, home run, two RBI). Cerda’s two-run homer was his first of the season. Nate Samson was 2-for-4 with a double, while Logan Watkins was also 2-for-4 and an RBI. Jae-Hoon Ha has a modest four-game hit streak. Ha had a double and two RBI in a 1-for-5 evening. Justin Bour laced his fourth homer of the season, as he also was 1-for-5. Dallas Beeler was the unfortunate benefactor of errors by Elliot Soto and Nate Samson, allowing six runs (three earned) over five innings. Marcus Hatley and Casey Harman each gave up an earned run, as they worked one and three innings respectively.
On Saturday, it appeared as neither pitching staff wanted to win the game, but fortunately, Tennessee’s offense wanted it more as they sweated out an 8-7 victory over Montgomery Smokies’ hitters had their “patience caps” on, as they drew nine walks off of Biscuit pitching. Showing the way was lead-off hitter James Adduci, who was 2-for-3 with a double and two walks. Jae-Hoon Ha also drew two walks, and extended his hitting streak to five as he was 1-for-3. Justin Bour (1-for-4) drove in three runs with a double and Rebel Ridling went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Starting pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee had a good beginning, holding Montgomery scoreless and striking out two batters in the first three innings. He fell apart a little over the next two innings, allowing three earned runs. Rhee ended up pitching six innings and striking out three while giving up three earned runs. Alberto Cabrera relieved and always seemed to be in trouble, with three unearned runs coming in two innings off of errors by Elliot Soto and Matt Cerda. Kevin Rhoderick tried to close things out in the ninth, bringing the Biscuits within a run after another error by Cerda led to an unearned run. Rhoderick then picked up his third save by striking out the final two batters to preserve the win.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (11-16)
While Iowa brought the thunder on Tuesday night, their bats were surprisingly silent on Wednesday as they were edged out 2-1 by Memphis. Casey Coleman became the hard-luck loser, as he allowed two earned runs and struck out two in 3.1 innings. Manny Corpas picked up the slack, as he tossed 2.2 scoreless innings. Jeff Beliveau kept the I-Cubs in the game, as he delivered two shutout innings with two strikeouts. Iowa batters could only manage three hits, as a solo home run by Luis Valbuena (1-for-3, RBI) provided their only scoring. Adrian Cardenas and Anthony Rizzo were each 1-for-3, with a double being part of Rizzo’s total.
The I-Cubs failed to hold a four run lead on Thursday, as Memphis was able to pull away and give Iowa a 7-6 loss. Blake Lalli (2-for-4, home run, RBI) started the scoring in the second with a solo home run. Alfredo Amezaga (2-for-3, triple) followed with a triple, while Brett Jackson (1-for-5, RBI) singled home Amezaga and Chris Rusin, Jackson taking third on a throwing error. Dave Sappelt (2-for-3, double, RBI) then doubled to bring in Jackson. Two more runs would score in the third, as Josh Vitters (1-for-4, home run, two RBI) tagged his first home run of the season, a two-run shot. However, Rusin was not able to deliver, as he ended up allowing six earned runs, while striking out three, in 6.1 innings. Frank Batista was hung with a blown save, even though he remains unscored upon since being promoted, as he went 1.2 innings. Esmailin Caridad coughed up the winning run in the ninth.
In a game high in tension, but low in scoring, Iowa scooted past New Orleans 1-0 on Friday. Tapped to start, Rodrigo Lopez did a good job by going shutting out the Zephyrs and striking out three in three innings. Frankie De La Cruz followed suit, posting five scoreless innings and striking out a batter. Blake Parker received the gift win by providing a scoreless ninth. Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4, double) was the hero, as he raced home with the winning run on a wild pitch after reaching on a double. Luis Valbuena was 3-for-4 in his return to the starting line-up.
It wasn’t as close as it looks in the box scores, as Iowa dropped a 7-3 loss to New Orleans on Saturday. Randy Wells continued his pitching descent, as he allowed three earned runs in five innings, including a two-run homer, as he struck out four batters. A surprise promotion, Dan Berlind poured gas on the fire, as he gave up four earned runs in only 0.1 innings. Manny Corpas, Esmailin Caridad, and Scott Maine blanked the Zephyrs the rest of the way, but the damage had already been done. The I-Cubs managed two late runs to make the score appear close, with Ty Wright the only hitter of note as he was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs optioned RHP Randy Wells and LHP Scott Maine to Iowa; recalled LHP Travis Wood. The Tennessee Smokies activated C Luis Flores from the restricted list. The Peoria Chiefs placed RHP Ben Wells on the 7-day disabled list retroactive from May 3; LHP Sheldon McDonald was assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training.
Jonathan Mota was assigned to Triple-A Iowa. Junior Lake was activated from the DL and assigned to Double-A Tennessee.
CCO’s Prospect Watch
Note: Outfielder Reggie Golden is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Replacing Golden on the list is the next highest player available in the fan vote: pitcher Tony Zych.
- Javier Baez (IF) – Extended Spring Training
- Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
- Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .255, six doubles, triple, two home runs, 11 RBI, five stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
- Junior Lake (IF) – Activated from the DL Sunday, assigned to Double-A Tennessee
- Dillon Maples (RHP) – Extended Spring Training
- Matt Szczur (OF) – .239, seven doubles, two triples, six RBI, 15 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
- Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .193, three doubles, two triples, five RBI, four stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
- Josh Vitters (3B) – .244, three doubles, home run, 10 RBI (Iowa Cubs)
- Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training
- Tony Zych (RHP) – 0-1, 3.68 ERA, 14.2 innings, 11 strikeouts, three walks, three saves
Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO