Cubs Minor League News: Caissie rakes, Clarke impressive, Vasquez with two hits, more
Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports

Cubs Minor League News: Caissie rakes, Clarke impressive, Vasquez with two hits, more

by - Senior Writer -

OMAHA — As good as this Iowa Cubs (0-2) offense can be, their pitching will always be a concern. That was the issue last season and a big reason why they missed out on the playoffs despite having one of the best records in AAA.

Two games into the 2024 season, their pitching could be an issue again, at least regarding the bullpen. Down 6-2 entering the ninth inning, the Cubs rallied to tie things up and sent the game into extras for the second straight night. Looking for a different result this time, the Omaha Storm Chasers (2-0) got the last laugh yet again, walking off the Cubs 7-6 in 10 innings.

Making the start for Iowa was Chris Clarke, as the Iowa rotation is now in flux. A lot of this has to do with Ben Brown getting promoted to replace Justin Steele, as Iowa must now piece together the rest of their rotation. Clarke didn't last long, as he gave the Cubs three innings, but three shutout innings before Sam McWilliams and Daniel Palencia came on to allow six combined runs.

Opposing Clarke was Anthony Veneziano, who also pitched just three innings but left trailing as the Cubs opened the scoring for a second straight game. Like in Friday's game, it was the big guns who got the party started for the Cubs, as Pete Crow-Armstrong led things off with a single. That was followed by another single from Owen Caissie and a Matt Mervis walk to load the bases with one out.

Patience remained the key to the Cubs' success in the first, with David Bote picking up a bases-loaded walk to push a run across and give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Iowa was unable to add on, as BJ Murray Jr grounded into an inning-ending double play. Despite the wasted opportunity, the Cubs were making their 1-0 lead hold up, as their pitching was very good early on.

Then came the fifth inning when the newly acquired Curt Casali made an immediate impact as his solo shot put Iowa in front 2-0.

It was in the bottom of the fifth when things began to go south as a John Rave homer followed the Logan Porter single, and just like that, we had a 2-2 game. McWilliams continued to struggle in the fifth, allowing two more singles, including an RBI single to Nick Pratto to put the Storm Chasers in front 3-2.

One inning later, it was Palencia's turn to struggle, as a mix of command issues and hard contact did him in. After Mike Brosseau started things off with a single, Cam Devanney extended the lead to 4-2 using an RBI double. A pair of bases-loaded walks later in the inning brought home two more runs as the Storm Chasers opened up a 6-2 lead after back-to-back three-run frames.

From there, it was up to the Omaha bullpen to hold down the fort, which they did for the most part until the late innings. Credit Cam Sanders and Brad Wieck for doing the same, as they posted zeros in nearly four innings of work to keep the Cubs close. Once the night inning started, you saw the high-powered Cubs offense come to life at the perfect time.

Luis Vazquez started things off with a leadoff double before coming home on the Chase Strumpf homer to pull within 6-4. Casali was hit by a pitch shortly after to keep the rally going, while the Alexander Canario walk had a pair of runners on with one out. That set the tone for arguably the best hitter in the Cubs organization all spring as Caissie ripped another double to pull the Cubs within 6-5.

For all of the questions of whether or not Caissie was ready for AAA, it's safe to say he has answered those questions through two games as he continues to amaze at the plate. Immediately following that Caissie double was Mervis coming through with a sacrifice fly to tie things up 6-6 and helped push things to extra innings yet again. Bote added a single to put runners on the corners, but the Cubs were unable to come through with the hit they needed to take the lead.

With the Cubs going down in order in their half of the tenth, Colten Brewer was called upon to pitch the bottom half as he was making his Iowa debut. It was a short-lived appearance for Brewer as a wild pitch moved Devin Mann to third before coming home on the Brosseau sacrifice fly and lifted Omaha to their second straight walk-off win.

Caissie continues to see the ball well with three more hits and is hitting .750 through two games. Vazquez added two hits as they combined for half of the Cubs hits.

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