Cubs Minor League News: Mervis grand slam, Morel clutch, Davis and Velazquez homer
Mervis smacked a grand slam in the win

Cubs Minor League News: Mervis grand slam, Morel clutch, Davis and Velazquez homer

by - Senior Writer -

Thursday marked the true official start of the minor league season as three Cubs affiliates were in action. Not only were the Iowa Cubs looking to remain perfect, but AA Tennessee and Low-A Myrtle Beach kicked off their season hoping to have a great year.

In what could go down as one of the most, if not the most, highly anticipated minor league season in Cubs history, the results on Thursday could have been better as several of the Cubs top prospects struggled to find their footing. That led them to a 1-2 record on the evening as things are about to get underway in full force.


Everyone knew coming into the season that the Iowa lineup would be great. I don't think anyone expected them to be this good, as they have scored double-digit runs in three of their first four games. That has helped them get off to a 4-0 start as they used a four-run ninth inning to take down the Saints.

Roenis Elias got the start, and although he wasn't great, he wasn't terrible either. Elias gave the Cubs four innings and allowed four runs in those four innings off of three long balls. He walked two and struck out five. Had it not been for the Saints six-run eighth inning, with five of those runs coming off of Tyler Duffey, you would be looking at a much different game and one to feel better about.

With Bailey Ober getting the ball for the Saints, the Iowa offense wasted no time getting the party started as Nelson Velazquez clubbed a two-run homer in the first for the quick 2-0 lead.

That lead didn't last long as the Saints offense got right to work against Elias in the bottom of the first and used a trio of homers to take a 3-2 lead. Edouard Julien, Kyle Garlick, and Tyler White connected for the homers as the ball was flying out of the yard early.

After that inning, both pitchers settled in, with Dom Nunez picking up a bases-loaded walk in the fourth to tie the game up at three. Saint Paul answered right back in their half of the fifth, using a Matt Wallner single to retake the lead while a wild pitch gave them a 5-3 advantage. Like in the first, that lead didn't last long as Matt (Mash) Mervis ensured the Cubs would retake the lead.

With the bases juiced, Mervis got every bit of the baseball and crushed it 412 feet for the grand slam to put Iowa back in front 7-5.

Given his success last season and the early season success this year, the Mervis to the bigs chatter will only get louder. Iowa continued to build on their lead with a Brennen Davis solo shot in the seventh, but it was the eighth inning when things came unglued.

With Duffey struggling with his command, it allowed Saint Paul to load the bases while a walk led to another run. Throw in a single from Garlick, and a double by Wallner, and the Saints were back in front 10-8 and still threatening. They capped off their six-run inning by scoring off a wild pitch and took an 11-8 lead into the ninth.

Needing three runs and three outs to work with, the Iowa offense continued to flex their muscles and kept the pressure on the Saints. With Sergio Alcantara reaching via an error to allow the ninth run to score, Nunez and Christopher Morel added RBI singles, with the Morel single proving to be the game-winner in the Cubs 12-11 shootout victory.

David Bote was the lone player without a hit, as Davis and Morel led the way with three.


Arguably, the most exciting team in the Cubs system this year will be the Smokies. Loaded with talent, including the Cubs top Prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong, Tennessee could be on the verge of a great year, but their season didn't start that way.

Ryan Jensen, who earned the opening-day start, is looking to have a big season. Like Elias, Jensen got through four innings, but was very good in the process. He allowed two runs (1ER) and struck out five before the pen struggled. Walker Powell surrendered a pair of runs in three innings, with Cayne Ueckert allowing two more in the ninth.

With the score tied 0-0 in the second, Birmingham took the lead for good as they scored the game's first run off a wild pitch strike three. Luis Mieses added an RBI single in the third as Birmingham had the Smokies down 2-0. That was more than enough for Garrett Schoenle, who, despite walking five batters, struck out seven in his start and kept the Tennessee offense in check.

That 2-0 score held for a while until the Barons struck for a pair of solo shots, with Nate Mondou going deep in the sixth and Jose Rodriguez in the seventh. Both came off of Powell, whose day ended in the eighth. Birmingham added a pair of ninth-inning runs to go up 6-0 before the Smokies bats finally came to life.

With BJ Murray Jr starting things off with a walk, Owen Caissie followed that up with a double as Tennessee had two runners in scoring position and no outs. A passed ball and an error led to their first run, while the Luis Vazquez sacrifice fly was the final run in the Smokies 6-2 loss. Tennessee was held to four hits, with PCA grabbing two.


After ending the Pelicans season in the playoffs a year ago, what better way to extract revenge than by a season-opening series? Instead, Charleston pushed across three runs in the second to help pave the way for an easy win. Grant Kipp was the starter, and although four runs were scored off of him, only one was earned, so his line doesn't look terrible.

The problem was the three errors by the Pelicans mounted to five unearned runs as Marcus Johnson and Jack Hartman held the Pelicans scoreless through five while striking out six. A large portion of the Riverdogs damage came in the three-run second as a costly error allowed for two runs to score, while the Ryan Spikes RBI single made things 3-0.

That score held until the fourth when Chandler Simpson singled home another run to extend the lead to 4-0. Although it took six innings for the Pelicans offense to get rolling, they started to chip away at the lead in the bottom half of the sixth, with Rafael Morel singling to lead things off before advancing to second on a walk. Pedro Ramirez kept the line moving with an RBI single while the Moises Ballesteros sacrifice fly made things 4-2.

Unfortunately, that was all the offense for the Pelicans as Charleston pushed across two more runs in the eighth to pick up the 6-2 win. Ramirez led the way with two hits and an RBI as Morel, Ballesteros, Reggie Preciado, and Felix Stevens all had hits. Cristian Hernadez made his full-season debut and went hitless with a pair of K's.

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