Ryu rocky in start

METAIRIE, La. – A hot afternoon, a sluggish offense, and a pitching performance that left a lot to be desired all came together Wednesday afternoon at Zephyr Field as Triple-A Iowa fell to New Orleans, 4-2.

Jae-Kuk Ryu (2-5) started and had far from his best stuff, giving up four runs in as many innings on five hits. Ryu's struggles were apparent from the start. The right-hander allowed two runners to reach base in the first inning, but escaped damage. He was not as fortunate in the second when he walked Tyrell Godwin to open the inning and then hit Brandon Harper.

Later in the inning, on a 3-2 count, Ryu walked Zephyrs starting pitcher Steve Watkins to load the bases with one out. He followed with a run-scoring infield hit from Bernie Castro and moments later a bloop RBI single from Mike Vento that gave New Orleans a 2-1 lead.

Ryu, who made his major league debut with the Cubs last month, walked four batters total and managed one strikeout while throwing 82 pitches. When he got Ryan Church to bounce into a 1-2-3 double play to end the second inning, he had already thrown 50 pitches.

Both Ryu and Iowa pitching coach Alan Dunn pointed out what went wrong after the game.

"I lost command of my fastball," Ryu said. "I tried to throw my fastball for strikes, but it was crazy out there today. Sometimes it happens."

With the exception of a Harper home run to lead off the fourth, Ryu was seldom hit hard but frequently showed signs of fatigue and took considerably long periods of time between pitches, often stepping off and making non-aggressive pickoff moves to first base. He routinely pitched behind in the count and found himself in jams.

"Sometimes I try to rush it out there and speed things up," he said. "Today I tried to relax a little more, but it didn't work out."

The Zephyr Field radar gun was never in use throughout the day, but Cubs pitcher Ryan O'Malley charted the game and noted afterward that Ryu's fastball was generally around 85-88 mph.

Dunn, Ryu's pitching coach last year at Double-A, offered a couple of explanations for the pitcher's struggles.

"It was a matter of him not finding the arm slot where everything is coming out of his hand consistently," Dunn said. "When you do that, and when your mind starts trying to slow the game down, you have a hard time adjusting. Everything was a struggle out there today with him behind in the count. No matter what adjustments he made, they just didn't work.

"He gave us a chance, but it was one of those days. He's had a game or two where he wasn't as locked in as he has been in other outings. He had the one outing in Sacramento where he was locked in through eight innings and had a real low pitch count. Comparing that with today shows quite a big difference, but we'll go back to work tomorrow and get him ready to get back out there in five days."

Iowa's offense managed to out-hit the Zephyrs, 6-5, as Michael Restovich provided most of the fireworks with a run-scoring single and solo home run as part of a three-hit performance. Of the 10 homers Restovich has, eight have been solo shots.

The Cubs also got some bad news in the second inning when Buck Coats injured his knee diving into second base after reaching on a bunt single earlier in the inning. Coats left the game a half-inning later, the result of a sprain. He is listed as day-to-day.

"When I watched it, I was more concerned with his shoulder," Iowa manager Mike Quade said. "I guess he must have somehow dug his knee into the ground. I don't think it's anything serious, but we got him out of there. He's a tough kid and he'll be fine."

Coats was icing his knee in the trainer's room after the game and appeared to be in good spirits.

"He's such an interesting kid," added Quade. "With his reaction to certain things, you just never know with him. After it happened, I asked him if he was OK and he said he was. When he came back in the dugout a half-inning later, that's when he let us know there was a problem."

Iowa fell to 28-37, now 7.5 games back of first-place Nashville in the Pacific Coast League's American Northern Division. Rich Hill is scheduled to start the finale of the four-game series Thursday. After that, Iowa heads to Des Moines for a nine-game home stand and then it's back to New Orleans for another four-game series.

Game Notes

Felix Pie was hitless in four at-bats to lower his average to .257 in 63 games. He is 2-for-11 in the series with at least one strikeout in each of his last seven games.

Geovany Soto got a much-needed day off after catching Mark Prior in Tuesday's 2-1 Iowa win. Soto has been struggling with the bat recently with just one hit in his last 23 AB's. Triple-A veteran Casey Kopitzke got the start behind the plate Wednesday and was 0-for-4.

Micah Hoffpauir originally had the day off, but was brought in to play first when Coats left. Restovich got the start at first and was moved to right to accomodate the absence of Coats. Hoffpauir later moved to left when Jon-Mark Sprowl came in to play first.

Game time temperature was listed at 87 degrees and rising. New Orleans caught a slight break in the humidity after a minor cool front moved through the area the Tuesday night. A record-high of 95 greeted the two teams in Monday's opener.

Those of interest who were on hand again Wednesday included Cubs Assistant to the General Manager Randy Bush, Minor League Infield/Bunting Coordinator Bobby Dickerson, and former University of New Orleans head baseball coach Ron Maestri. Maestri, the Zephyrs' Chief Operating Officer, is a close personal friend of Quade's that coached the Cub skipper in his playing days at UNO.


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