Cubs Minor League News: Slaughter homers, Wesneski impressive, Mervis raking, more
Photo courtesy: Iowa Cubs

Cubs Minor League News: Slaughter homers, Wesneski impressive, Mervis raking, more

by - Senior Writer -

OMAHA - Although the opening weekend wasn't what the Cubs and their fans envisioned, there were still plenty of positives to take away from the first series of the season. For starters, Owen Caissie continues to crush the baseball like he did in Spring and will force the hand of the Cubs organization sooner rather than later.

You also saw Alexander Canario, Matt Mervis, and Pete Crow-Armstrong get back to doing what they do best, which is something they lacked most of the Spring. Throw in great starting pitching, and Iowa appears to have what it takes to make some serious noise this season. That can't happen unless their bullpen fixes its early-season struggles, but that wasn't an issue on Sunday, as a Jake Slaughter homer was all the Cubs needed in a 2-0 victory.

It was a much-needed victory for a team that dropped two consecutive extra-inning games as they get set for what is going to be a very chilly opening week at home. Making his first start of the season was Hayden Wesneski, and now the question becomes how long he will be in the Iowa rotation. Wesneski didn't last long, going just three innings, but he only allowed two hits, which set the tone for what was to come.

Wesneski turned things over to a bullpen that not only tossed six shutout innings but did so relatively easily. That started with Riley Thompson and his two innings before Edwin Escobar went to work in the sixth. Of all the pitchers used by Iowa, Escobar had the most trouble, as he walked two and scattered two hits in 1 2/3, but he still managed to keep Omaha off the board. Richard Lovelady and Riley Martin took over from there to finish things off and gave the Cubs the win.

Opposing the Cubs was Andrew Hoffman, who gave Omaha its best starting pitching performance thus far. Hoffman pitched five innings, allowing just two runs on five hits and striking out five before his bullpen took over. Unfortunately, the two runs he allowed would be too much to overcome, as the Cubs' pitching was slightly better most of the game, especially early on.

Typically, you never want to score all your runs early in the game, but that especially comes true when all your damage comes in the first inning. It doesn't bode well for what is to come, which the Cubs dealt with on Sunday. With Crow-Armstrong leading things off with a walk before swiping second, one big Slaughter swing provided the offense as his two-run blast gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Iowa wouldn't look back, as neither team could push across any more runs.

Iowa had a chance to add on in the third, with Matt Mervis and Owen Caissie picking up a pair of two-out singles, but Hoffman escaped without damage.

It took six innings for Omaha to even have an offensive threat, but with Escobar on the mound, the Storm Chasers had him on the ropes.

Not only did Escobar walk a pair, but there was a Nick Pratto single mixed in as the bases were loaded with only one out. Needing to make a massive pitch to escape trouble, Escobar did just that as his inning-ending double play kept the Cubs in front 2-0 and killed what was the only real threat for Omaha.

Knowing how close things came to seeing the Cubs lose the lead, Iowa was looking to add on late as they came to bat in the ninth. A one-out double from Mervis was a great start to the inning, but with two strikeouts mixed around, the Cubs were down to their final out. Leave it to Darius Hill to keep things going with a walk, but once again, the Cubs were unable to score, putting the pressure on Martin to lock things down.

Things didn't start off well for the left-hander, as he allowed a leadoff double to CJ Alexander to start the ninth and set the Storm Chasers offense up in business. That would be the final baserunner of the game, as Martin retired the next three to lock down his first save of 2024 and give the Cubs their first win of the season.

Mervis led the way with two hits, while five others recorded one.

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