Between the University of Iowa's thrilling win over LSU in the Capitol One Bowl back in January, and the Iowa Cubs' 11-10 comeback victory against Omaha on Sunday, Iowa sports teams seem to have a knack for perfecting the dramatics in 2005.
The I-Cubs rallied from a 10-1 deficit thanks in large part to Richard Lewis and perhaps his best performance all year. Lewis tied a season best with four hits and drove in two runs, just his 17th and 18th RBIs of the year, respectively. He is still looking for his first home run of the season.
Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois each went deep, as Dubois finished with three hits. He has three multi-hit games in four starts since being demoted. Dubois drove in four runs, compliments of a three-run blast that gave Iowa the lead for good in the eighth inning.
The team's biggest comeback of the year was of no thanks to struggling Jon Leicester, who gave up seven runs and 10 hits in only 4 1/3 innings of work. Make it 15 runs allowed in Leicester's last two starts combined. Opponents are batting .326 off him in Triple-A action this season.
Luckily the bullpen was able to salvage things, for the most part. Carmen Pignatiello allowed three runs (one earned) in 1 2/3 innings with Cliff Bartosh (1-0, 0.00) getting the win after throwing two scoreless innings. As usual, Jermaine Van Buren was there for the save, his 15th. Eight of Van Buren's last nine appearances have been scoreless outings.
West Tenn routed
Ricky Nolasco made it over three months without a loss to open the season. His first came in a big way, 9-1 to Mississippi. Nolasco (8-1, 3.16 ERA) gave up a season-high seven runs on eight hits in three innings for his first defeat since September 5 of last year, ironically against the Braves. Four of the seven runs allowed on Sunday came in the first inning.
Nolasco was originally slated to start Saturday, but a rainout Friday pushed Renyel Pinto back a day, and left-hander Ryan O'Malley also got the nod ahead of Nolasco in Saturday's doubleheader.
"I had to miss a start early on in the year because of a little pain in my shoulder," Nolasco said. "They just wanted to take the safe side and make sure I get my proper days' rest."
For his part, Pinto allowed three hits in five shutout innings on Saturday. The Jaxx won both games of the twinbill.
"He's throwing the ball well," Nolasco said of Pinto. "He's getting more confidence in himself and I'm sure he'll be back up at Triple-A by the end of the year."
Nolasco wouldn't mind joining him there. The Rialto, Calif., native was with the Iowa Cubs for over a month during the 2004 season, but was sent back to West Tenn after a nine-start stretch concluded with a 9.30 ERA.
"I think I've probably put together my best season," said Nolasco. "The competition gets better and better the closer you get to the big leagues."
Nolasco's worst start of the year didn't seem to matter much when the dust settled anyway. The Jaxx were held to just two hits—both courtesy of Brandon Sing, who homered and walked. After beginning to slide in May and limping through June, Sing is batting .390 over his last 12 games and .299 for the season. His 18th home run tied him for second in the Southern League behind only Delmon Young.
Daytona blanked 3-0
West Tenn wasn't the only team gasping for offensive air. The struggling D-Cubs were held to just four hits in Sunday's loss to Sarasota, their 15th in 21 tries since the second half began. Starter Yorkin Ferreras allowed all three of the game's runs in six innings. It was his best start of the season in five tries. He went six innings and gave up all four hits.
Brian Dopirak made it three straight games with a hit, and Chris Walker five straight. You probably already know that Walker leads the Cubs' organization in stolen bases, so we'll spare you that detail. However, it's worth noting that he swiped his 37th bag of the year.
Robinson Chirinos has never been known for his bat, but the second baseman is batting .258, which currently surpasses his previous career-best for one season.
Peoria wins pitchers duel
Jesse Estrada had never held an opponent scoreless or hitless on the year until Sunday, when he tossed six shutout innings of no-hit ball, striking out six. Estrada (5-8, 5.06 ERA) faced the minimum 18 batters for six innings and did not allow a walk for the fourth time in his last six starts. Peoria pitching has allowed just one run in their last 19 innings.
Another Jesse, DH Jesse Schmidt, picked up two hits and scored the Chiefs' only runs. Schmidt now has four two-hit games in his last five overall and is batting .324 (11-for-34) since joining the team on July 1.
Boise hammered 9-1
Darin Downs needed only one run to spot Eugene in order to pick up a loss; that's because his offense could only muster five hits. Davy Gregg went 0-for-4 atop the lineup, though he is still batting .296 with a .361 OBP and a league-best 19 stolen bases. Mark Reed had his second straight 0-for-4 night at the plate and has cooled off since his hot start. Reed is batting .234 at Boise with one hit in his last 14 at-bats.
For his part, Downs (2-2, 2.30 ERA) gave up only one run in five innings. He surrendered four hits and punched out five. The bullpen allowed the remaining eight runs, four of which were charged to rookie right-hander Roger Evenson.