AAA-Iowa CubsDES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa put it all back together on Tuesday to return to their winning ways. Great pitching and timely hitting allowed the Cubs to make a two-run first inning stand up, as they beat the Omaha Royals, 3-1. LHP Jimmy Anderson (2-1) went six good innings, only giving up one run on two hits, but was a bit wild, walking five.
Right-hander Mike Wuertz, recently demoted from the parent club, pitched a perfect ninth inning for his second save in as many opportunities. Wuertz has thrown only two innings, but so far his stint in AAA has been similar to that of his spring performance in Mesa earlier this year. Wuertz has only allowed one hit while striking out three.
It seems that no matter who Iowa chooses as their closer, they excel. RHPs Francis Beltran and Bryan Corey, and lefty Nate Bland have all thrown well in the closers role for Iowa this season.
First baseman Donny Leon and DH Bill Selby each had two hits, including a double apiece. Selby, Leon, and left fielder David Kelton each had an RBI for the AAA-Cubs, who showed great patience by drawing six walks on the evening. The Cubs are averaging three per game this year.
PROSPECT WATCH: Brendan Harris has been struggling to start the season after coming back from extended spring training. Harris has only recorded two hits, both singles, in 18 at-bats so far this season. He was given Tuesday night off in an attempt to get him to relax, but should be back in the lineup on Wednesday. In his absense Tuesday, 31-year-old Russ Johnson went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks. Harris has also seen some playing time at shortstop this year.
ON DECK: Iowa will play the third of four games with Omaha on Wednesday night, as RHP Jon Leicester is set to go up against Royals starter Kris Wilson. Game time is set for 7:05 CT at Sec Taylor Stadium. The Cubs are currently sitting in first place atop the Central Division of the Pacific Coast League, one game ahead of the Albuquerque Isotopes (Marlins).
AA-West TennesseeHUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Left-hander Carmen Pignatiello didn't exactly have the kind of start he was hoping for against the Huntsville Stars Tuesday morning, as the Diamond Jaxx fell to Huntsville, 9-3. Pignatiello (2-1) gave up two runs in each of his first two innings before the Stars put a '5' spot on the board in the fourth inning to put the game far out of reach.
Top first base prospect Prince Fielder, shortstop Enrique Cruz, and starting pitcher Chris Saenz (3-1) all hit homeruns off Pignatiello, who gave up nine runs on nine hits in four innings. Pignatiello also walked four.
Unfortunately, the Diamond Jaxx did not do too well at the plate, either, as pinch-hitter Matt Craig had the only extra base hit with his solo homerun in the fifth inning.
OF Dwaine Bacon scored the Jaxx other two runs, going 1-for-3 at the plate. No Jaxx player had more than one hit, although five different starters recorded a hit, and another reached base on a walk. The Jaxx truly struggled to put the bat on the ball, however, as they struck out 13 times on the game, with each starter having at least one K. Just a plain ol' bad day for the Jaxx on both sides of the coin Tuesday.
PROSPECT WATCH: Recently-activated third base prospect Matt Craig has been hitting well since coming off the disabled list last week. In eight total games, Craig is hitting .263 (already fourth on the team) with a homer and a double, while scoring three runs. Craig has made one error in seven games in the field.
ON DECK: After their early Tuesday morning matchup, the idle Diamond Jaxx can sleep in Wednesday morning before making the trip back home to Jackson. West Tenn will resume play on Thursday when they host the Montgomery Biscuits (Devil Rays). The Jaxx are now 11-14 on the year, just 2.5 games out of first place behind the Stars.
Class-A Daytona CubsDAYTONA, Fla. - The Cubs bullpen blew a late lead Tuesday as LHP Nick Martin (0-1) took his first loss of the year for Daytona in a 5-3 loss to the Dunedin Blue Jays. After another brilliant outing by LHP Richard Hill, the Cubs' bullpen, which included Martin and right-handers Chris Mowday and Thomas Atlee, gave up at least one run in just one inning apiece. Hill continued to be dominant, going six innings and only allowing one unearned run on just two hits, with one walk to go with six strikeouts. Hill lowered his ERA to 0.70 for the year with his performance Tuesday.
Third baseman Casey McGehee had the only extra base hit on the day for the Cubs with an RBI double. Center fielder Felix Pie hit well, going 1-for-1 with a walk and a run scored on the day. Pie is now hitting .270 in his first year of High-A ball.
PROSPECT WATCH: Richard Hill has been downright filthy all year long, and the worst part about it is that he is 1-2 despite a 0.70 ERA in five starts. Hill has been victimized by unearned runs, allowing eight total on the year with only two being earned. The former Michigan Wolverine has 34 strikeouts in just 25.2 innings for a K/9 ratio of 12.14. Hill's WHIP is just above 1 for the year, at 1.031.
ON DECK: The Cubs will take on Dunedin again Wednesday at 9:30 AM CT. Starters have not been announced yet, but it is Andy Sisco's turn in the Daytona rotation. The Cubs are now 10-16 on the year, 7.5 games out of first.
Class-A Lansing LugnutsDAVENPORT, Iowa - After losing a tough one against the Swing of the Quad Cities Monday, the Lugnuts came out strong on Tuesday night to beat the Swing, 6-5. That score held up since the top of the fifth inning, as RHP Kris Gross (1-0) got the win for Lansing. The Lugnuts' bullpen was good for five innings, giving up only one walk and one hit on the evening. The 'pen, which consisted of Gross, LHP Clay Rapada and right-handers Weston O'Brien and Adalberto Mendez, also recording six strikeouts.
Mendez earned his eighth save of the season for the Lugnuts. His 5.02 ERA is very misleading, as nearly all of the eight earned runs given up came in just one bad out for the closer who leads the Midwest League in saves. To go along with the great bullpen work Tuesday night, the Lansing hitters got off to a great start, scoring a run or more in four of the first five innings.
Outfielders Chris Walker and Ryan Fitzgerald each had three hits for the Lugnuts to lead the offensive assault. Both Walker and Fitzgerald also drove in a run for Lansing. The real run-scoring machine on the night, however, was first baseman Kevin Collins, who had a pair of hits, including a homerun, and four RBIs on the night. It was Collins' sixth blast of the year. He and teammate Brian Dopirak are now first and second in homeruns in the Midwest League.
Dopirak went 0-for-1 on the night, but drew an impressive four walks to help the Lugnuts' offense. Lansing drew eight walks total on the night in addition to pounding out 11 hits. The Lugnuts have been struggling to score runs this year, only averaging 3.76 per game, but their pitching has been slightly better, allowing just 3.28 a game.
PROSPECT WATCH: Brian Dopirak has been hitting the cover off the ball for the Lugnuts. Dopirak is batting .293 on the year, and 15 of his 27 hits have been for extra bases. His seven homeruns lead the Midwest League, and his .609 slugging percentage is best on the team. A total of 10 walks have also given Dopirak a .363 OBP for the year to go along with 16 RBIs--good for second on the team.
ON DECK: Lansing will play the third of a four-game series with the Swing Wednesday. Starters have not been announced as of this morning, but LHP Sean Marshall is due up next in the rotation for Lansing. The Lugnuts are currently 14-11 on the year, but just can't seem to catch up to first place South Bend (18-7), who keeps on rolling in the first half of the minor league schedule.
Ryan Worden is the author of CubsTalk's Minor League Notebook each weekday, and can be reached for comment by clicking here.