The rain, rain won’t go away as the Cubs’ affiliates lost half of their scheduled games to the weather. What we were left with was only one shaky win by Myrtle Beach with a great pitching effort by Duane Underwood.
The story for the end of the week were the Caribbean leagues as the DSL Cubs moved their record to 8-3 while the VSL Cubs are 3.5 games out of first place with two wins over the league leaders.
Low Class-A – South Bend Cubs (26-31)
The heartbreak continues for South Bend as they squandered a late lead on Wednesday, losing to Burlington 6-4. The offense chipped away after Yasiel Balaguert (3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI) doubled to lead off the second inning, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a ground out. Jeffrey Baez (1-for-3 with a triple) began the third inning with a walk and Rashad Crawford (1-for-3 with an RBI) followed with a single. After a double play, a base hit from Gleyber Torres (2-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base) drove in Baez. In the sixth inning, Torres singled and stole second, coming home on a double from Balaguert. The seventh started with a triple by Baez, who scored on a sacrifice fly.
Zach Hedges started for the SB Cubs and struck out three while allowing three earned runs on five hits and two walks in five innings. Tommy Thorpe relieved and once again got into trouble, giving up three earned runs in three innings.
South Bend’s game on Thursday was postponed due to rain.
High Class–A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans (35-24)
Myrtle Beach nearly gave one away on Wednesday as the Pelicans beat Frederick 9-6 in 11 innings. Duane Underwood had a great start, limiting the Keys to an earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out three in six innings. James Pugliese pitched an inning, allowing an earned run and striking out a batter. Tyler Ihrig had a good eighth inning, but the wheels started to come off in the ninth. Ihrig would be charged with two earned runs as he was replaced by Jasvir Rakkar, who had trouble getting out of the inning. Rakkar gave up two runs (one earned) and committed an error. Juan Paniagua bailed out the Pelicans as he struck out three in two scoreless innings for the win.
The Birds came out swinging as Pin-Chieh Chen (2-for-5) and Chesny Young (2-for-5) had one out hits to start the game. A two-out base hit by Jacob Rogers (3-for-6 with three RBI) drove in both Chen and Young. The second inning started out the same way as Trey Martin (3-for-6 with a stolen base) and Kevin Brown (3-for-5) had one out singles, and Martin scored on a force play. Myrtle Beach seemed to put the game away in the ninth as consecutive one out base hits by Martin, Brown, and Mark Zagunis (3-for-6 with two RBI) allowed Martin to score. Chen walked, and a double from Victor Caratini (1-for-5 with a double and three RBI) drove in Brown and Zagunis. After Frederick tied the game, the Pelicans regained the lead in the 11th as the bases were loaded on singles by Zagunis and Chen, and a walk to Young. A sacrifice fly scored Zagunis with the go-ahead run, and base hits by Rogers and Danny Lockhart (1-for-6 with an RBI) scored Chen and Young.
It was too little too late for Myrtle Beach on Thursday as a ninth inning rally didn’t have enough and the Pelicans fell to Frederick 7-4. Paul Blackburn continued to scuffle, giving up six runs (five earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out two in five innings. Michael Heesch also suffered a little from the defense, as he was charged with an unearned run with a strikeout in two innings. Josh Conway was the only effective pitcher. Conway struck out one in a perfect inning.
Myrtle Beach held a fragile lead after the second inning. The Pelicans loaded the bases on singles by Victor Caratini (2-for-5) and Carlos Penalver (1-for-4) sandwiched around a walk to Jacob Rogers (0-for-2 with three walks). A base hit by Kevin Brown (1-for-3 with an RBI) drove in Caratini. Down 7-1 in the seventh, Trey Martin (0-for-3) was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Danny Lockhart (0-for-4) reached on a fielding error, and two fly outs later Martin scored. Mark Zagunis (2-for-5 with two doubles) doubled to begin the ninth and scored on a single from Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-4 with two RBI). Base hits by Chesny Young (2-for-4 with a double) and Caratini loaded the bases, but a double play snuffed out hope, allowing only Chen to score.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (32-28)
Tennessee’s game on Wednesday was postponed due to rain.
A season debut was spoiled by the bullpen on Thursday, as Tennessee lost 5-2 to Jacksonville. Top prospect Pierce Johnson made his first start of the season after dealing with a ribcage injury. Johnson was fairly sharp as he struck out two and gave up three hits and a walk in three innings. Andres Santiago relieved and was part of a bullpen collapse as he surrendered two runs (one earned) and struck out two in two innings. Michael Wagner didn’t fare much better, as he had three strikeouts and allowed two earned runs in 2.2 innings. Gerardo Concepcion struggled to record the final out of the eighth and gave up an earned run.
The Smokies tied the game at two in the seventh when Wes Darvill (1-for-4) and Jacob Hannemann (2-for-4) singled with one out. An errant pick-off attempt advanced the runners a base, and a single by Bijan Rademacher (1-for-1 with an RBI) drove in Darvill. A sacrifice bunt by Elliot Soto (2-for-3 with an RBI) brought in Hannemann.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (30-28)
Iowa had a scheduled off-day on Wednesday, and Thursday’s game was postponed due to rain.
Dominican Summer League – DSL Cubs (8-3)
The D-Cubs were unstoppable on the base paths Wednesday as eight stolen bases led to a 6-5 win over the DSL Tigers. Centerfielder Tony Rijo was the hitting star as he went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base, while second baseman Fidel Mejia was 1-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base. Seventeen-year old lefty Pablo Ochoa came on in relief and struck out three, allowing an earned run in 4.2 innings.
It went 12 innings, but the DSL Cubs were able to edge out the DSL Brewers 5-4 on Thursday. The D-Cubs made the most of their seven hits, as first baseman Richard Nunez was 2-for-5 with an RBI, and catcher Erick Gonzalez was 1-for-5 with a triple. Luis Aquino won his first game as he struck out six in four scoreless innings of relief.
Venezuelan Summer League – VSL Cubs (12-10)
The VSL Cubs put some heat on the league leading VSL Rays on Wednesday in beating the Rays 13-6. An eight-run fourth inning aided matters as outfielder Jose Gonzalez was 2-for-2 with three RBI while Roberto Vahlis was 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Big Mario Vides (6-foot-3, 230-pounds) came on in relief and struck out two in three scoreless innings for the win.
Continuing their march toward first place, the VSL Cubs dispatched the league leader, the VSL Rays, 3-1 on Thursday. Carlos A. Rodriguez pitched like a top prospect, striking out seven in five scoreless innings. Juan Rengifo collected his league leading sixth save as he allowed an earned run in the ninth. Outfielder Jose Rojas was 2-for-4 with a double, while shortstop Rafael Narea went 2-for-5 with a double.
Carolina League All-Stars
The Carolina League announced its All-Stars on Thursday, and the Cubs’ affiliate in Myrtle Beach will be represented by three players: pitchers Duane Underwood Jr. and Jonathan Martinez, and outfielder Mark Zagunis.
The 20-year old Underwood is tied for second in the league in victories, as he has a 5-2 record over ten starts. Underwood is also third in ERA and WHIP at 2.08 and 0.994 respectively. The 2012 second round draft pick has 37 strikeouts against 16 walks in 56.1 innings.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Darwin Barney last season, Martinez has been one of the more overlooked prospects in the Cubs’ system. Martinez is currently second in the league with a 0.939 WHIP and sixth with a 2.76 ERA. Also 20 years old, Martinez is 4-1 for the season with 27 strikeouts and only eight walks in 49 innings.
Drafted in the third round in 2014, Zagunis has made a smooth transition from catcher to outfield without having any effect at the plate. Leading the league with a .439 on-base percentage, Zagunis is also second with a .876 OPS and his .305 average is good for seventh. The 22-year old also has ten doubles, three triples, three home runs, 24 RBI, and seven stolen bases.
Along with seven members of the Tennessee Smokies and five South Bend Cubs, the Pelicans’ All-Stars runs the Cubs’ system total to 15.
News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs assigned RHP Yoanner Negrin to the Iowa Cubs from the Eugene Emeralds; assigned RHP Pierce Johnson to the Tennessee Smokies from extended spring training; assigned RHP Fernando Cruz to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans from the Eugene Emeralds.