Down on the Cubs Farm: Mills delivers gem, Amaya’s four-hit night, Payne plays hero
Amaya had an impressive 4-hit night (courtesy: MB Pelicans)

Down on the Cubs Farm: Mills delivers gem, Amaya’s four-hit night, Payne plays hero

by - Senior Writer -

It was a day of mixed results on the far as the Cubs managed a winning 3-2 record for the day.

IOWA CUBS 5 – Omaha Storm Chasers 4: With this almost being a must win for Omaha if they wanted to close the gap against Iowa, the Cubs turned to Alec Mills who is starting to come into his own of late. Mills continued his strong stretch of play with six brilliant innings of 2ER ball to improve to 4-2 on the season while the bullpen battled through some early struggles to hold off the Storm Chasers 5-4.

It was all Iowa in the early going as they took complete control in the second inning. With one down, the Cubs used the long ball to jump in front as a red-hot Robel Garcia went deep for number 15 on the season and 1-0 lead. With Taylor Davis working a walk immediately after, Trent Giambrone got back to his homer-hitting ways, retaking the team lead with his 16th to give Iowa a comfortable 3-0 lead. Phillip Evans added a third-inning sacrifice fly to give the Cubs a 4-0 advantage through three.

After slicing through the lineup, the first time through, Mills ran into a little fifth inning trouble as Omaha finally got the bats working. A Nick Dini, one-out single got things, started for Omaha as they knew they needed some runs in a hurry. A few pitches later saw Elier Hernandez good deep for his sixth of the season cutting the deficit in half 4-2. Dixon Machado got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth with his ninth homer of the season as Iowa was in front 5-2 with the bullpen now taking over.

Junichi Tazawa was impressive this spring before resigning with the Cubs in late April. After dominating throughout May, Tazawa has been roughed up a little bit in June, and that continued Wednesday. A pair of one-out seventh-inning singles had the Storm Chasers in business, but after a strikeout, Tazawa was on the verge of getting out of things unharmed. That was not the case, however, as Kelvin Gutierrez picked up a two-run single to chase Tazawa with the score now 5-4.

Iowa had a golden opportunity to slam the door shut in the eighth as a leadoff walk to Garcia followed by an error put two runners on base with no outs. After a Giambrone strikeout, the Cubs ran themselves out of the inning as Omaha picked up a strike him out throw him out double play to keep things 5-4 heading to the ninth. That would be as close as things would get as Dillon Maples picked up a pair of K’s en route to his third save in the 5-4 win.

Iowa is now 44-35 and has a seven-game lead over second place Omaha. Both Giambrone and Mark Zagunis had the hot hand at the dish picking up a pair of hits each in the win. Four other players tallied a hit including Ian Happ who went 1-4 as he looks to bust out of a 3-27 slump.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES 9 – Chattanooga Lookouts 8: Led by Gioskar Amaya and his three-double day, the Smokies picked up their second consecutive win over cross-state rival Chattanooga 9-8 to close within two games of the .500 mark. Taking the ball was Luis Lugo as he looked to continue his surprisingly dominating start at AA.

Lugo, was far from the level he delivered in his previous starts, allowing 6ER in just five innings of work as his ERA climbed to 4.96. Things were not all bad for Lugo, as the bullpen and offense did their jobs, which helped him pick up the win and improve to 3-0 in AA.

Immediately in the first inning, Lugo got the sense it was going to be a long night as nothing went right. With Alfredo Rodriguez already standing on second following a leadoff double, Jose Siri matched that with a double of his own for the quick 1-0 lead. Now with one away, Ibandel Isabel took Lugo deep for No. 18 as the Lookouts were now in front 3-0. Tyler Stephenson followed that up with a double before coming home on a two-out Stuart Fairchild single to make it 4-0 after one.

It took a little while for the Smokies to get going offensively, but with Lugo settling down after the rough first, they used that as motivation to back him on the mound. Gioskar Amaya got things started with a one-out double putting a runner in scoring position. With two outs, P.J. Higgins extended the inning with a walk ahead of Vimael Machin single to make it 4-1. The big hit came from Jesse Hodges who cleared the bases with one swing a few pitches later with a double to tie things up 4-4.

The offensive barrage continued into the fifth as once again the Smokies had the pressure on. Lugo helped his cause leading off with a single before being erased on a fielder’s choice. Singles from Amaya and Jared Young loaded the bases as Higgins put the Smokies up 5-4 with a sacrifice fly. Machin kept the line moving as he doubled shortly after to extend the lead to 7-4 heading to the bottom of the fifth.

Down but not out, the Lookouts got back to swinging the bats in the bottom of the fifth as Stephenson picked up his second double of the game to make it a 7-6 ball game. With this now a game of the bullpens, the Smokies got the upper hand in both the seventh and eighth innings when Higgins added an RBI single in the seventh before an eighth-inning error made it 9-6 Tennessee.

Once again, the Lookouts showed their tenacity at the plate cutting things to 9-7 in the eighth after a Mitch Nay single. With two outs in the ninth inning, Tennessee had a chance to deliver the finishing blow as a pair of walks loaded the bases for Hodges. Unfortunately, Hodges couldn’t do anything in that situation ending the threat with a weak pop out.

The Lookouts comeback continued in the bottom of the ninth as Stephenson continued his big night with a leadoff shot to bring things to 9-8. Following a pair of outs, it was an error for the Smokies ahead of Calten Daal single and just like that the winning run was on base. Tommy Nance was able to recover nicely picking up the final out for his fourth save of the season to finish off the 9-8 win.

Tennessee is now 37-39 as they try to reach .500 for the first time in nearly a month. It was the Amaya show at the plate in this one as he went 4-5 with a trio of doubles. Both Machin and Hodges added two-hit games for the Smokies as both also tallied 3RBI’s a piece in the win.

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS 7 – Winston -Salem Dash 6: In what has seemed like forever, the Pelicans earned the series win Wednesday night as they took care of the Dash 7-6. The Pelicans, who are now 2-5 to start the second half after an 0-5 start jumped on the Dash before most fans even settled into their seats.

Zach Davis continued to use his speed to give the defense fits as he legged out an infield single to open the first. Davis advanced to third on the same play as pitcher Konnor Pilkington uncorked a two-base throwing error in the process. That error proved to be extremely costly as Jimmy Herron ripped an RBI single to make it 1-0 Pels.

Herron was just getting started with his night, as he added to the Myrtle Beach lead with another single in the third to make it 2-0. That set the stage for Miguel Amaya, who, slowly but surely is figuring out High -A pitching ripping a double to push the lead to 3-0 Pelicans.

The Dash finally got into the scoring action over the next two frames as a pair of three-run innings suddenly had them in front 6-4. Starting in the third after a Tate Beckman single, Yeyson Yrizarri picked up a double of his own to end the shutout bid 3-1. Tyler Frost followed that up with a hit by a pitch before Steele Walker tied things up 3-3 with a huge two-out double to center field.

Winston-Salem continued to keep the pressure on in the fourth as suddenly things began to look bleak after a promising start. With one out, it was a pair of singles that set the offense up ahead of a Beckman double to give the Dash a 4-3 lead. With two runners still in scoring position, Yrizarri and Frost picked up consecutive singles to push the lead to 6-3 as the teams headed to the fifth inning.

Down by three in the top of the sixth inning, the Pelicans bats not only came to life but were determined to take the lead in the process. Luke Reynolds started things off with a walk ahead of a Cam Balego single. Looking to move the runners over, Carlos Sepulveda dropped down a sacrifice bunt and was able to leg it out for a single. An error on the same play allowed Reynolds to score as it was now a 6-4 game.

That set the stage for Tyler Payne as he delivered the biggest hit of the night. With a pair of runners on base, Payne not only cleared the bases with one swing but drove himself in as well with his fifth homer of 2019 to the Pelicans back on top 7-6.

That would be all they needed in terms of run support as the bullpen took care of the rest to hand them their first series win of the second half and move to 23-51 for the season.

Payne was the man of the night for Myrtle Beach, as he picked up three hits to go with his game-winning three-run shot. Grant Fennell and Herron added multi-hit games with Amaya going 1-5 in the win. It was not a great effort for Ryan Kellogg, but the big story can from Enrique De Los Rios. The recently promoted De Los Rios came from Eugene as he tossed 6 1/3 scoreless frames for the Emeralds. That scoreless streak continued for Myrtle Beach by tossing three scoreless frames in his season debut to earn his first win of the season.

SOUTH BEND CUBS 1 – Fort Wayne Tin Caps 9: One day after getting their doors blown off by the Cubs, the Tin Caps returned the favor as they cruised for a 9-1 win. Making his first start of the second half was Brailyn Marquez, who certainly was hoping for better. Marquez lasted just four innings as his command was an issue all game long. Marquez allowed 4 R, 3ER on only 3H, but it was his 5BB and just 2K that was an issue as the South Bend staff was rocked all game long.

Things were not so bad in the early going, as the teams remained scoreless through three. It was in the fourth when Fort Wayne took the lead for good before busting it open in the fifth. Justin Lopez brought home the games first run with a double play groundout with the bases loaded. The winning run came across shortly after via an error as it was a 2-0 lead despite 0RBI’s being credited to Tin Cap hitters.

Agustin Ruiz delivered the knockout punch in the fifth as he put the Cubs in a big hole that was unrecoverable. On the strength of two walks and a hit by a pitch, the Tin Caps had the bases loaded with two outs as one hit would spell trouble for South Bend. Not only did Ruiz deliver a hit, but he did so in grand fashion, connecting for a Grand Slam to push the lead to 6-0 through five.

That lead continued to grow in the sixth off the Cubs new pitcher Brendan King who yielded a pair of doubles off the bats of Grant Little and Blake Hunt as the Fort Wayne lead grew to 9-0 heading to the seventh. Still, with no runs on the board in the ninth inning, South Bend finally broke through as they refused to head to the hotels with a shutout.

It was all about a two-out rally in this one, as Brennan Davis connected for his second triple of the season to put himself on third base. Three pitches later it was the double machine Tyler Durna ending the shutout bid with his 21st double of the season to make it a 9-1 game. That was about all the excitement that the Cubs could muster as the fell to the Tin Caps 9-1.

The Cubs are now 40-34 on the season despite struggling to find their consistency to start the second half. With just four hits in the game, nothing will blow you away on the stat sheet as Davis and Durna picked up all four hits with two apiece. The recently surging Cole Roederer was 0-2 in the game but took 1BB. Sean Barry was the lone pitcher to throw a scoreless outing lowering his ERA to 1.02 as a promotion may soon be in his future.

EUGENE EMERALDS 5 – Boise Hawks 11: Looking to get back to their winning ways, the Ems turned to Zach Mort with hopes of him continuing his dominating stretch in short-season ball. That was certainly not the case as Mort delivered his worst outing of the season allowing 6 ER in 4 innings while the entire Emeralds staff was lit up for an 11-5 loss.

Things did start on a positive note for Eugene as they opened the scoring in the top of the first. Luis Vazquez continued to show patience taking a one-out walk, before advancing to third on a Yonathan Perlaza single. Perlaza was thrown out on that same play trying to stretch things to a double, but Jake Slaughter made sure a run would still score as his single made it 1-0.

Boise quickly responded against Mort in the bottom of the first to hand him his first earned runs of the season when Isaac Collins worked a leadoff walk before coming home two pitches later the Ezequiel Tovar triple. One pitch later it was a 2-1 Hawks lead as Michael Toglia picked up an RBI Knock. Mort was able to recover and sent his team to the second down just one when it could have been way worse.

Looking to strike again in the second, the Emeralds needed a little two-out magic as Jonathan Soto extended the inning with a single. 17-year old Reivaj Garcia continues to display a keen eye at the plate by taking a walk, as Fernando Kelli brought things even 2-2 with a single up the middle to continue his hot start.

It was in the third inning when the Hawks got to Mort the hardest as they took the lead right back and never relinquished it. Aaron Schunk gave Boise the lead once again as his single made things a 3-2 game. Joe Aeilts followed that up with the big blow of the inning as his first homer of the season made it 5-2 before the Hawks extended the lead to 6-2 on a wild pitch.

With Vazquez picking up a fifth-inning single to make it 6-3, the Hawks made sure things wouldn’t tip in the Eugene favor plating a pair in the bottom of the sixth to make it 8-3. Once again, the Emeralds would respond with a clutch hit in the seventh as Rafael Mejia doubled to make it an 8-5 game. That would be as close as things would get as Boise put things away in the eighth with three more runs to hand Eugene the 11-5 loss.

The Emeralds are 7-6 on the season as they continue to search for their identity as a team. Perlaza led the way offensively, as the lone Emerald with two hits or more. Six other players picked up one hit including Kelli who leads the way with a 306 average so far.

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