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Cubs Minor League News: I-Cubs combine for a shutout, Marquez impressive, Pels to playoffs
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports

Cubs Minor League News: I-Cubs combine for a shutout, Marquez impressive, Pels to playoffs


by - Senior Writer -

Thank goodness for the Minor Leagues right now. With the Chicago Cubs floundering down the stretch and on the verge of blowing an opportunity to make the postseason, the Minor Leagues are again starting to play some great baseball. It couldn't have come at a better time, with the postseason right around the corner for AA Tennessee and AAA looking to end the season strong as the Cubs system posted a second straight 2-0 day.

IOWA CUBS 1 - SAINT PAUL SAINTS 0

Where was this play from the Cubs the past three weeks? After stumbling in September to virtually end your playoff chances, the Cubs put together their best series in a long time to win five of six against the Saints and eliminating them from playoff contention. Strong pitching was the name of the game in this one, as the two teams combined for just one run in nine innings.

Sometimes, going with a bullpen game can work, and Sunday was one of the days where it worked in the Cubs favor. Shane Greene got the start and tossed three scoreless frames with four strikeouts before handing things over to a plethora of arms. One of those arms was Chris Clarke, who tossed two scoreless frames to improve to 5-5 on the season, while Jeremiah Estrada, Keegan Thompson, and Bailey Horn combined for the shutout.

The same can be said about the Saints and their staff, as four pitchers combined to allow just one run on three hits with nine strikeouts. Brent Headrick had the most success in relief for the Saints as he gave Saint Paul 3 1/3 perfect innings with four strikeouts. The game's lone run came in the second inning when Brennen Davis benefitted from an RBI forceout to produce the game-winning run.

It has been a long two seasons for Davis, so any positive at this stage of the year will go a long way for next season. Nelson Maldonado, Cole Roederer, and PJ Higgins had the hits for the Cubs.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES 3 - ROCKET CITY TRASH PANDAS 1

Pitching was undoubtedly the theme for the day on Sunday as the Smokies twirled a gem to close out the regular season. This couldn't have come at a better time, as the Smokies have suddenly gotten hot after adding an influx of High-A players in preparation for the Playoffs.

It has been a long time since Chris Kachmar can say he won a start, but that all changed on Sunday. After giving the Smokies five of one run, two-hit baseball, Kachmar improved to 3-2 on the season in what could have been his best start this year. He walked three and struck out six in his outing, while Brailyn Marquez and Eduarniel Nunez stuck out eight in four hitless relief innings.

Marquez is the one to highlight in this one, as this was by far his best outing of 2023. After struggling since reaching AA, Marquez finally started to look like the 2020 version of Marquez as he mowed through Rocket City hitters and struck out five in three innings. The Smokies needed their pitching to be top-notch, as Cole Percival and Houston Harding combined to scatter four hits in nine innings, but did allow three runs.

With the score tied 0-0 in the third, the Smokies managed to use a pair of sacrifice flies from Andy Weber and Matt Shaw to grab the lead, and they would never look back. Tennessee managed to hold that 2-0 lead until the fifth, when Adrian Palencia cashed in with an RBI single to pull the Trash Pandas to within 2-1. That was as close as they would get in this one as the Smokies pitching staff dominated from start to finish while Shaw added an eighth-inning insurance run on his third homer to cap off the 3-1 win.

Shaw led the way on offense with one hit and two RBIs, as BJ Murray Jr., Christian Franklin, and Jordan Nwogu had the rest of the hits.

With the win, the Smokies can now head into the postseason with some momentum as they will take on the first-half champs, the Chattanooga Lookouts, in a best-of-three beginning on Tuesday.

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