Yes, You CAN Steal 1st Base!
Hak-Ju Lee used his blazing speed to beat-out a routine grounder to second with the game tied, bases-loaded, and two outs in the bottom of the 9th, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 5-4 victory over the Brewers in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon in Mesa.
The Cubs entered the bottom of the 9th trailing the Brew Crew 4-3, thanks to a two-run Brewer rally in the top of the 8th resulting from a Ryan Flaherty E-5 throwing error, followed by an RBI double and an RBI triple surrendered by Cubs reliever Eduardo Figueroa.
But the Cubs could not be defeated.
Kyler Burke led-off the bottom of the 9th, drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch, and Rebel Ridling followed by ripping a line-shot single to left, Ridling's third hit of the game. Jae-Hoon Ha then dropped a picture-perfect sac-bunt (the kind they practice over-and-over again with coach Bobby Dernier at Instructs), advancing the potential tying run to 3rd and the potential winning run to 2nd. The Brewers walked DH Justin Bour (who had two RBI hits earlier in the game) intentionally to set-up a force at any base or a possible game-ending DP, and the Brewers got exactly what they wanted when Kyung-Min Na slapped a one-hop bouncer to the third-baseman. But the throw home was rushed, bouncing past the catcher for an error, allowing Burke to score the tying run, and leaving the bags jammed with just one-out. But Jovan Rosa struck out swinging, setting the stage for Lee's heroics.
The 18-year old Lee (he turns 19 next month) received a reported $725K bonus (equivalent to "2nd round money") when he signed with the Cubs out of a South Korean high school in 2008, and he probably deserved it, as he was named the top prospect in the Northwest League last week by Baseball America. Lee hit 330/399/420, with a league-leading 25 SB and a league-leading 56 runs scored in just 68 games at Boise, and teamed-up with Hawks second-baseman Logan Watkins to form a deadly 1-2 punch at the top of the order.
On the negative side, Lee also committed a whopping 27 errors in those 68 games, but that problem has not been in evidence so far at Instructs. Just as with Starlin Castro last year, young shortstops Hak-Ju Lee and Wes Darvill (2009 5th round pick out of Langley, BC - Canada) and second-baseman Logan Watkins (2008 21st round pick out of Goddard HS - Goddard KS) have been paying attention to their coaches, as all three have played middle-infield defense with a steady hand for the past couple of weeks, showing off their talents without misplay. If anything, it's the guys with the Div-1 college experience (like Ryan Flaherty and D. J. LeMahieu) who have been shaky with the glove.
RHP Chris Archer got the start for the Cubs today, and fared much better than he did in his previous outing last week. Archer worked three innings this afternoon, allowing just one run on two hits (one of which was a lead-off triple to the first batter of the game), NO WALKS, and a strikeout, and all that on just 41 pitches (28 strikes). It took him 58 pitches to get through just two innings last week. Archer may be discovering that he doesn't have to strike out every hitter, that while maybe strikeouts are cool and sexy, sometimes making good, quality pitches and letting the offense get itself out can work, too, especially if it keeps the pitch count at a reasonable number that can get you past the 5th inning.
The Cubs tied up the game in the bottom of the third, on a lead-off walk to Bobby Wagner and consecutive one-out singles by Darvill and Watkins, Darvill lining his single to left (as he used the whole field instead of trying to pull everything) and Watkins bouncing his to right (no longer just trying to slap everything to the opposite field).
2009 4th round pick LHP Chris Rusin (U. of Kentucky) pitched the 4th and 5th, and allowed one run on one hit (a first-pitch lead-off triple in his first inning of work) in his two innings. (Seeing Archer and Rusin throw consecutively is probably like watching 2/5 of the 2010 Daytona Cubs starting rotation pitch back-to-back).
The Cubs once again tied-up the game, scoring a single run in the 5th on a lead-off single by Ha and an RBI double by Bour (although the lumbering Bour then got himself picked-off second with no outs).
2009 11th round pick LHP John Mincone (Suffolk County CC) and 20-year old Venezuelan RHP Hector Mayora (the only member of the Cubs two DSL teams who got a post-season invite to Fitch Park this year) pitched scoreless innings in relief, before the Cubs pushed across a run to take the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th, thanks to a one-out RBI single by Bour that knocked-in Ridling, who had led-off the stanza with a single.
Then the Brewers scored two runs off Figueroa to take the lead in the 8th, before the big Cubs rally in the bottom of the 9th.
I guess it's not very often that an infield single produces a walk-off "Shot Heard 'round the World," or at least heard 'round the neighborhood of Fitch Park... (or maybe that was gunshots?).
Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1. Logan Watkins, 2B: 2-3 (4-3, 1B, 1B, 3-U SH), RBI, SB
2. Ryan Flaherty, 3B: 0-4 (1-3, 3-6-3 DP, F-8, F-9)
3. Brandon Guyer, CF: 1-4 (F-8, 1B, F-8, F-8), CS
4. Kyler Burke, RF: 0-3 (E-6, F-7, F-8, BB), R
5a. Rebel Ridling, 1B: 3-4 (1B, F-8, 1B, 1B) R
5b. Pin-Chieh Chen, PR: 0-0, R
6. Jae-Hoon Ha, DH #1: 1-3 (K, 1B, 5-3, 1-4 SH), R
7. Justin Bour, DH #2: 2-3 (5-4-3 DP, 2B, 1B, IBB), 2 RBI, PO
8a. Bobby Wagner, LF: 0-1 (BB, K), R
8b. Kyung-Min Na, LF 0-2 (F-8, FC-E5)
9a. Sergio Burruel, C: 0-1 (K, HBP)
9b. Jovan Rosa, C: 0-2 (K, K)
10a. Wes Darvill, SS 1-2 (1B, L-4)
10b. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: 2-2 (1B, 1B), RBI
1. Chris Archer - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 BALK, 4/4 GO/FO, 41 pitches (28 strikes)
2. Chris Rusin - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 1 GIDP, 4/0 GO/FO, 35 pitches (21 strikes)
3. John Mincone - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 13 pitches (11 strikes)
4. Hector Mayora - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 16 pitches (10 strikes)
5. Eduardo Figueroa - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 21 pitches (15 strikes)
6. Steve Grife - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GO/FO, 14 pitches (seven strikes)
Ryan Flaherty - E-5 (throw)
Sergio Burruel - 1-1 CS
WEATHER: 80's, mostly sunny, VERY breezy
ATTENDANCE: 12 (not so many scouts today)
I think Javy is learning--but he's learning to make contact, not learning to lay off pitches out of the zone. A quick glance at his plate discipline numbers on Fangraphs shows that his contact rate is up, especially his contact rate out of the zone, but his swing rate is up too, especially his swing rate out of the zone.
I definitely saw ballpark radar guns go up to 102 on Kerry Wood back when he was still a starter, but who knows how accurate they were.
They've mentioned Henry Rodriguez (2013), Chris Carpenter, and Andrew Cashner as Cubs who have gone 100+. They said Rodriguez was tops at 100.8. Who knows before 2008?
He'll play regardless of what he does, just like Soriano played for seven years before they finally ditched him.
What can they do? All I can think of is they can keep hiring and firing hitting coaches until they find one who can get him to stop hitting balls with the handle of the bat.
(All those broken bats added to his paycheck is just a bit much.)
Lester will probably be all right.
I think Arrieta might have added too much muscle preparing for that butt-naked ESPN photo shoot. Pitchers are supposed to be loose, not muscled up.
I have basically written off Heyward for this year -- if you are working on major swing changes in late July, you are going to struggle. Hopefully, he can be more productive at the plate next year. It will be interesting to see what they do with him if the Cardinals keep winning and close the gap. Heyward is dead last in the NL in slugging and in the bottom 5 in OPS -- yet still has a positive WAR. Hunh.
Has anybody in a Cub uniform ever thrown a ball 103 before?
He certainly looks better, no doubt, and is a different player than what we saw when he first came up. Full credit to him for changing his approach and saving his career.
But he has zero walks in 35AB since the break, and 10 in 251 AB all year. He does seem to be able to hit some pitches out of the zone, but, a guy with his pop should be drawing more walks. However, it's easy to forget he is still only 23, and probably trying to make an impact to prove he should be an everyday player.
The usual suspects, Molina and Wong. Gyorko drew a walk with two outs, none on. I recall us (particularly Szczur and Bryant) swinging at everything Familia threw.
Yup. Thanks Q
Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTNekUcY-XM
I for one hope that Sosa comes back soon.
O/B interesting you should mention that. Google ESPN Science Aroldis Chapman and you'll be treated to how his mechanics and delivery are possibly historic. It's the 120% of his body stretch plus the torque. They compare him to the Unit and NRyan.
Amazing how much lower the production gets when Bryant runs into a mini-cold streak. He doesn't stay cold for long. If just one of Zobrist or, gulp, Heyward, gets hot, they oughta have one more really nice winning streak in them. Having a closer that you have absolute confidence in can't hurt.
I hope they hold onto Jimenez. Outfield depth is questionable, especially with McKinney, who struggled this year but still, gone.
You don't think he's improved? He looks completely different out there than he did when he first came up. The last I checked his K rate was in the low 20% range - 22-23 or so. When he came up it was 40%+.
To me, what is scary about him if I'm the other guy is that he IS learning the strike zone. This guy could easily be the MVP someday.