Bullpen Solid for I-Cubs

NEW ORLEANS – There might be more than one reason why so many pitchers have been recalled by Chicago from Class AAA Iowa this season. The I-Cubs' bullpen has been one of the strongest in the Pacific Coast League in 2009, and they showed why Monday.

Faced with the challenge of holding a one-run lead for six innings, the bullpen was up to the task. Three Iowa relievers combined for six innings of four-hit ball as the Cubs (44-40) blanked New Orleans, 1-0, at Zephyr Field.

"Our (relief) pitching was outstanding," Iowa manager Bobby Dickerson said.

It had to be on this night.

Jose Ascanio started and ran into trouble early, lasting only three innings and throwing 65 pitches, just 32 strikes. He walked four batters and allowed two hits.

"He wasn't the typical Ascanio we know," Dickerson said. "We thought we could get five (innings) out of him with his pitch count, but he just lost his command and was pulling off and couldn't get the ball in the zone as often as I know he would have liked and we would have liked. He ran out of pitches but did a nice job of not allowing a run. That's huge. He wasn't sharp, but he didn't let them push across a run."

Luis Rivas' third-inning RBI double through the left side of the infield to score So Taguchi from first base gave Iowa the only run they would need off former Cubs pitcher John Koronka, who scattered six hits and three walks over six innings.

New Orleans stranded 10 runners and was 0-for-9 against Cubs pitching with runners in scoring position.

Jeremy Papelbon, a left-hander promoted from Class AA Tennessee Monday, made his Triple-A debut. He threw 20 pitches in 1 1/3 innings and gave up two hits.

"The first night in Triple-A, to get out there and go 1-2-3 (in the fourth inning) and get it under my belt was nice," Papelbon said.

Next was right-hander Vince Perkins, who took the win with two scoreless innings. Perkins (5-0) allowed two hits and one walk, and worked his way out of two jams with runners at the corners in the fifth and seventh innings to help keep the shutout intact.

Iowa saved their best for last as right-hander Jeff Stevens threw two perfect innings to close out the game. Stevens, acquired from Cleveland last off-season, earned his second save and extended his scoreless streak to 10 consecutive innings.

"Coming in, in a 1-0 game, you just have to throw strikes as best you can," Stevens said. "You don't want to give up any free passes. The command of my breaking ball wasn't very good tonight, but I just kept attacking the zone with fastballs."

Stevens threw three fastballs of 89, 86, and 89 mph to overpower New Orleans right fielder Jai Miller on three pitches to start the eighth.

"This is two games in a row where the bullpen has really had to pick up some innings. All of us are ready to pitch in any situation," Stevens said. "I know Blake's been getting the majority of ninth-inning save situations, but all of us are ready down there. You never know when they want to mix up roles. We have to be ready to pitch."


At Zebulon, N.C., the Smokies (40-45 overall, 8-7 second half) were out-hit 13-4 in the loss Monday. 3B Marquez Smith (1-2, two walks) reached base three times and extended his hit streak to eight games. RHP Hung-Wen Chen (4-7) started and suffered the loss, allowing four runs and 10 hits in six innings.


At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (40-39, 7-5) collected 14 hits in the victory Monday. RF Brandon Guyer (4-for-5) paced the offense with his 11th multi-hit game in 23 contests since joining the team. SS Starlin Castro (3-for-5) doubled and drove in two runs. RHP Ryan Searle started and received a no-decision, allowing one run and three hits in five innings. RHP Craig Muschko (4-1) picked up the win in relief, allowing two runs and six hits in four innings.


At Peoria, the Chiefs (42-38, 4-7) collected 12 hits in the victory Monday. 3B Josh Harrison (4-for-5) tripled and drove in three runs. 1B Rebel Ridling (2-for-4, two RBI), C Mario Mercedes (2-for-3, walk) and 2B Derrick Fitzgerald (2-for-4) all had two hits. RHP Justin Bristow started and received a no-decision, allowing one run and two hits in five innings. RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-0) earned the win in his Peoria debut, allowing one run and four hits in four innings of relief.


At Boise, the Hawks (5-12) scored five unanswered runs to take the victory Monday. 2B Logan Watkins (2-for-3) had two doubles and a walk, and CF Brett Jackson (2-for-4) tripled and drove in two runs. RHP Robert Hernandez started and allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. RHP Josh Lansford (1-1) earned his first victory in relief with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.


At Scottsdale, Ariz., the Cubs (7-6) were held to five hits in the loss Monday. LF Burundi Davis (2-for-3) led the team in hits and hit his second home run. RHP Toby Matchulat (0-1) suffered the loss in relief, allowing four runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings.

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