Down on Cubs Farm: Iowa stunned again in extras, South Bend wins playoff series


by - Staff Writer -
Jake Roth - USA Today Sports
Jake Roth - USA Today Sports

One word can describe Thursday nights playoff action, and that word is excitement. From the opening inning of both the Iowa and South Bend game, it was evident both were hungry for a win as they faced pivotal game twos. What looked like it was going to be another 1-1 night quickly turned positive briefly, only to have heartbreak return for one team and jubilation for another as the Cubs did indeed go 1-1 yet again.

IOWA CUBS 3 – Round Rock Express 4 (10 innings): You must feel for Iowa as they have been on the unlucky side of things during the series first two games. After going 5-11 against Round Rock during the regular season, breaks needed to go their way if they expected to advance to the next round. After holding a 3-1 lead most of the night, Round Rock battled back off the bullpen to force extra innings before walking the Cubs off for the second straight night 4-3 to take a 2-0 series lead.

Getting the start was Tyson Miller who picked a great time to toss his best outing of the season for AAA. After becoming the ace of the Tennessee staff all season, Miller has struggled since arriving at Iowa posting an ERA north of 7.00. He has however been pitching much better lately, and that was on full display Thursday. In six innings of work, Miller allowed three runs on just four hits in a no-decision effort against the Express despite battling through command issues once again.

It was the Iowa offense that stole the show early as they wasted no time getting going. Vimael Machin got things going immediately in the first as he went deep for his first homer of the postseason and 1-0 Cubs lead. Phillip Evans doubled that lead later in the first on a sacrifice fly as the Cubs appeared to be more focused in this one. One inning later saw the lead balloon to 3-0 in favor of Iowa as Connor Myers singled through the hole up the middle for an RBI. Unfortunately for Iowa, that was all they could do offensively as they sputtered at the plate the remainder of the game.

Feeling confident in their offensive abilities, the Express preached patience as they got a run back in the second off a Stephen Wrenn single to make it 3-1. That score remained intact until the seventh inning when Miller finally seemed to be running out of gas. Round Rock noticed that as well and began to make him and the Iowa staff pay as the Jamie Ritchie single and Ronnie Dawson RBI groundout pushed home a pair of runs to suddenly make it 3-3.

With neither team able to do anything the final two frames despite a ninth-inning Round Rock rally, we were off to extras for the second straight night as the Cubs hoped it would be them coming on top this time. Unlike during the regular season, a runner will not automatically be placed on second as the Cubs went down in order without making any noise.

Round Rock, on the other hand, did make some noise as they had the final say at home yet again. A pair of walks to Drew Ferguson and Jack Mayfield got things started as the Express had two on with no outs on Jordan Minch. Two pitchers later would be the final pitch of the game as Taylor Jones ripped a single to center to plate the winning run to lift the Express 4-3 for the 2-0 series lead.

Both Trent Giambrone and Machin paced the offense as the duo collected two hits each in the win. Five others picked up one hit as Iowa tallied nine in the loss. Following Miller’s strong outing, the trio of Randy Rosario, Danny Hultzen and Wyatt Short were strong in the pen as they allowed no runs on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts in three innings. Rosario did, however, allow the game-tying runs to score but those were charged to Miller. Iowa will be back in action tonight as they will return home looking to fend off elimination. Kendall Graveman will get the ball.

SOUTH BEND CUBS 7 – Bowling Green Hot Rods 4: For the first time since 2013, the Cubs can say they won a playoff series as South Bend was able to finish off the Hot Rods 7-4 for the 2-0 series win. After back and forth showing much of the game, the Cubs flexed their muscles with a four-run ninth inning which proved to be the difference as they await the winner of the Great Lakes, Lake County series winner.

Riley Thompson got the start and despite not delivering his best outing was able to keep things close for his team. Thompson was unable to make it through the fifth as he lasted 4 1/3 inning giving up four runs with three of them earned. He did manage to strike out three hitters without a walk in his no-decision as command was undoubtedly not an issue.

After the Cubs struck first in game one, it was time for Bowling Green to return the favor at home grabbing the early 2-0 lead in the second off an Erik Ostberg double. South Bend responded with a third-inning Jake Slaughter single and a Clayton Daniel fourth-inning single to draw even before the Hot Rods retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

This time it was Osmy Gregorio coming through in the clutch as his RBI single gave the Hot Rods the lead once again 3-2. Just like when it came time to face their previous deficit, Slaughter came through in the top of the fifth with a sacrifice fly as the Cubs were even again 3-3. The back and forth affair continued to the bottom of the fifth when Jordan Qsar was grounded into a double play. However, a throwing error from Andy Weber put Bowling Green back on top for the third time 4-3.

Still down 4-3 and down to their final outs before the series would become tied 1-1, South Bend staged a furious ninth-inning rally that proved to be the difference. Already with a pair of men on base, it was Nelson Maldonado coming through with a game-tying single as a throwing error on the play allowed Brennan Davis to scamper to third to put runners on the corners with one down.

Slaughter then stepped to the plate with another RBI chance and was able to reach on a fielder’s choice as a throwing error not only allowed Slaughter to reach but pushed across the go-ahead and game-winning run 5-4. Four pitches later saw Cole Roederer rip one up the middle for an RBI single increasing the Cubs lead to 6-4. Now with the bases loaded, it was Fidel Mejia getting in on the fun as his RBI walk gave the Cubs a 7-4 lead as the teams headed to the bottom of the ninth.

After entering the game in relief in the seventh, Brendan King was tabbed with the ninth looking to close the game out for South Bend. King did just that as he made quick work of the Hot Rods despite some hard contact to retire them in order giving the Cubs their first playoff series win since 2013. South Bend now must await the winner of the Great Lakes/Lake County Series as the Cubs will host game one of the Division Championship on Saturday. That will also be a best of three series.

South Bend had no shortage of offense as they pounded out 15 hits in the win. It was a trio of men leading the way as Nelson Velazquez, Davis and Roederer all hit the cover off the ball with three hits each. Andy Weber also had a nice with a multi-hit night of his own with four others grabbing one hit. Daniel and Slaughter were responsible for two of the remaining four hits as they also picked up RBI’s in the win.

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