Down on the Cubs Farm: Miller back on track, Sierra delivers walk-off, highlights, more

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by - Staff Writer -
Tyson Miller was impressive for the Smokies (Photo credit: Tennessee Smokies)
Tyson Miller was impressive for the Smokies (Photo credit: Tennessee Smokies)

The Cubs continue to shuffle plenty of moving parts through the system as more and more players are starting to contribute on a nightly basis. With the first half of the minor league season nearly complete, teams are starting to get a glimpse of what to expect the remainder of the season. With a 2-2 record last night, the Cubs have plenty of positive signs moving forward as plenty of players remain hot at key positions.

IOWA CUBS 1 – New Orleans Baby Cakes 3: The Cubs capped off their trip to New Orleans, by sending Matt Swarmer to the hill for a start. Overall, Swarmer pitched a strong game on the mound, lasting 6 1/3 innings allowing 3ER on 7H to take the loss (4-5) as the offense failed to generate much Wednesday night as the lost 3-1.

The Miami Marlins combo once again wreaked havoc early on as they gave the Baby Cakes a quick 1-0 lead in the first. JT Riddle continues to crush Iowa pitching as he led things off with a double. Isan Diaz would respond with a single to put runners on the corners before Swarmer got Yadiel Rivera to groundout into a double play to kill what had the potential to be a big rally. A run did come home on the double play giving the Baby Cakes a 1-0 lead.

Following the first inning, neither team could generate much offensively as we headed to the bottom of the fifth with a 1-0 game still intact. That is when Wilkin Castillo extended the lead to 2-0 with his first homer of the season as New Orleans was still in control. Rivera was able to push the third run across with a sacrifice fly in the sixth as the Baby Cakes had a comfortable 3-0 through six.

Looking for any offense, the Cubs finally put an end to the shutout bid in the seventh as they looked to chip away. It was Robel Garcia getting the Cubs on the board with his fifth homer of the season, closing the gap to 3-1. That was not only the last run of the game for Iowa, but the last scoring threat of any kind as a ninth-inning Ian Happ single was the last hit for the Cubs as they fell 3-1.

Iowa still maintains the top spot in the Pacific Coast league at 32-22. Happ led the way for the Cubs going 2-3 with 1BB as Iowa was held to just five hits in the game. Swarmer, Garcia and Mark Zagunis added the final three hits, while Taylor Davis went 0-4 with 1K in the losing effort. On a side note, Luis Vazquez made his AAA debut for Iowa as a pinch hitter going 0-1. Vazquez is the second youngest player in Franchise history at just 19 years of age.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES 2 – Biloxi Shuckers 1: Looking to bounce back from his worst start of the season, the Smokies turned to Tyson Miller in hopes of another ace-like performance. Miller made everyone forget about his previous shaky outing and got back to doing what he does best tossing six innings of one run, five hit ball with no walks and six strikeouts for a no-decision. His ERA is 2.06 for the season as the Smokies picked up a pair of late runs to get him off the hook and win 2-1.

The lone blemish off of Miller came early on in the game as the Shuckers struck first in the second inning. With one out, Joantgel Segovia put himself in scoring position with his first double of the season. With two outs and runners on the corners following a Max McDowell single, Johan Belisario connected for the third hit in the inning, an RBI single to make it a 1-0 Biloxi lead. That would be all the offense the Shuckers would get as Miller settled down nicely and allowed just two hits the rest of his outing.

With Miller doing his job on the mound, it was up to the offense to do theirs as they were held scoreless through five. The Smokies were finally able to break through in the top of the sixth as they used the long ball to get on the board. It was P.J. Higgins tying things up 1-1 as he continued his hot hitting with his fourth homer of the season. The Smokies played longball once again in the eighth inning when Jesse Hodges went deep for his first of the season to give the Smokies a 2-1 lead with six outs to go.

With the game entirely in the hands of the bullpen, the Smokies were trying to hold on late as Craig Brooks worked out of a little trouble in the eighth to send the game to the ninth. Brooks recovered nicely in the ninth, retiring Biloxi to pick up his team-leading seventh save as the Smokies pull out the 2-1 win. Tommy Nance earned the win in relief (1-0), dropping his ERA to 1.93.

The Smokies continue to flirt with the .500 mark as they are back above that line at 26-25. Tennessee collected ten hits in the game despite plating just two runs as Higgins, Christian Donahue, and Clayton Daniel each had two hits in the game. Vimael Machin was held hitless but still leads the team with a .350 average. With his two-inning save, Brooks continues to be one of the best relievers in all of AA as his ERA has fallen to just 0.44 this season.

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS 0 – Potomac Nationals 8: There was not a whole lot to cheer about in Myrtle Beach last night, as Alex Lange continued his season-long struggles on the hill to fall to (1-8) on the season. Despite the final score showing 8-0 in favor of the Nationals, Lange didn’t pitch as bad as he has in the past, making it through 5 innings, and allowing 3ER on 6H. He walked four batters to go with four strikeouts as the bullpen surrendered five runs in four innings in the loss.

Lagne got off to a strong start despite battling through some early command issues to allow just one run through five innings. That run came in third when Aldrem Corredor went deep for his fourth of the season and 1-0 Nationals lead. With the score still 1-0 in the top of the sixth, it appeared Lange was starting to run out of gas as Potomac touched him up for a pair of runs on a David Masters single and bases loaded Jackson Reetz walk to push the lead to 3-0 through six.

The Pelicans best scoring chance in the game in the bottom of the sixth as Zach Davis led off the inning with a single. Two batters later it was Miguel Amaya getting hit by a pitch as Myrtle Beach had two runners on and one out. Looking for a breakthrough hit to bring home at least one run, it was Tyler Payne stepping into the box, but a double play off his bat ended the inning-killing what looked like a promising rally.

Carlos Sepulveda with the swing (Photo credit: Larry Kave)

Down by three in the seventh, the Pelicans bullpen was hoping to keep things close as they waited for the offense to come to life. Unfortunately, a pair of RBI doubles from Corredor and Telmito Agustin pushed across three runs as the Nationals lead ballooned to 6-0. A Nick Banks eighth-inning solo shot and Augustin sacrifice fly in the ninth capped off the scoring as the Nationals cruised to the 8-0 win.

Myrtle Beach will be the last team to reach 20 wins one they get there, as they currently sit at 18-35 and are a season-high 17 games under .500. The Pelicans had just five hits in the game with Carlos Sepulveda collecting two of those hits. Grant Fennell, Davis and Amaya added the other three in the losing effort. Something to keep an eye on moving forward is the status of Amaya, as he exited the game shortly after being hit by a pitch.

SOUTH BEND CUBS 5 – Lake County Captains 4: Looking to close the gap on the Captains in the division, the Cubs found themselves down three runs midway through the game as things looked bleak early. However, a three-run seventh inning started a brand-new ball game as the Cubs rallied back to pick up the walk-off win in the ninth 5-4.

Faustino Carrera got the ball looking to continue his strong season on the hill. Despite some early inning trouble, Carrera settled down to make it through five innings, allowing just 2ER on 3H, 2BB and 5K in a no-decision. His ERA is at 2.91 for the year. As mentioned, Carrera struggled early on in the game which was evident by his first inning. A Jose Fermin homer and Mitch Reeves single gave the Captains a 2-0 lead in the first as things were not looking good early. South Bend was able to get one of those runs back in the fourth inning on a wild pitch, but once again the Captains were able to stretch their lead out in the sixth, getting to the Cubs bullpen this time.

Looking to build on their one-run advantage in the sixth, Jesse Berardi took it upon himself to do just that, needing one swing to make it 4-1 as he went deep for the first time in 2019. That would be the final run of the game for the Captains as it was up to their bullpen to seal the deal.

Down by three heading into the bottom of the seventh, something changed in the Cubs approach as they finally began to string together some hits. Brennan Davis and Gustavo Polanco each picked up singles before Rafael Narea was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. That set the stage for Delvin Zinn, who with one swing, tied the game up 4-4 with a bases-clearing triple for his second of the season.

With the Cubs bullpen pitching lights out the final three innings to give the offense a chance, South Bend headed to the bottom of the ninth tied 4-4 with an opportunity to play the hero. Narea showed great patience as he worked a leadoff walk to get things started. Zinn answered that with a single before a sacrifice bunt moved both runners to second and third with one out.

Hoping to set up an inning-ending double play, Andy Weber was intentionally walked to load the bases bringing up Tyler Durna. Durna, looked like he was about to end the game, hitting one right on the screws, but right to the shortstop for the second out. Jonathan Sierra was next at the dish as it was his turn to try and play the hero. With a 2-2 count, Sierra got a pitch to hit and ripped it to left field to bring home Narea for 5-4 walk-off win.

The Cubs are now 29-22, 1.5 games behind the Captains and just 2.5 games back of Great Lakes for first place. Zach Mort got another win in relief tossing the final four innings after Carrera exited. South Bend collected nine hits in the contest with Zinn and Sierra each having two. Both of those players accounted for all 4 RBI’s as the fifth run was off a wild pitch.

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Tags: Robel Garcia, Ian Happ, Mark Zagunis, Taylor Davis, Luis Vazquez, Tyson Miller, Jesse Hodges, Craig Brooks, Christian Donahue, Clayton Daniel, Vimael Machin, Zach Davis, Miguel Amaya, Carlos Sepulveda, Faustino Carrera, Gustavo Polanco, Rafael Narea, Delvin Zinn, Andy Weber, Tyler Durna, Jonathan Sierra
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