Ben Carhart Wild Card Joker in the Mesa Deck
Ben Carhart muscled a walk-off RBI single to center with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to drive-in Garrett Schlecht from 3rd base with the winning run, as the AZL Cubs edged the AZL Giants 8-7 to clinch the AZL Wild Card berth tonight in Mesa, AZ.
The Giants grabbed an early 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st, as Shane Houck took Cubs starter Paul Blackburn (Cubs 2012 Supplemental 1st round pick received for losing free-agent 1B Carlos Pena post-2011) deep with a three-run shot before Blackburn could record an out.
But the Cubs came back to tie the game in the bottom of 2nd.
David Bote singled and Trevor Gretzky walked to start the inning, and after Yasiel Balaguert plated one run with an opposite-field line-drive RBI single to RF (the first of two RBI singles for Balaguert tonight), hot-shot 18-year old Venezuelan SS Carlos Penalver came through with a two-out two-run bases-loaded RBI single to right to drive-in the tying runs.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 3rd, as Shawon Dunston Jr blasted a two-out bases-loaded three-run double to right to cap a four-run inning and put the Cubs up 7-3, but the Giants came back to tie the game with four runs of their own in the 5th, as Jonathan Jones and Gabriel Cornier ripped RBI singles off Cubs reliever Jasvir Rakkar.
Cubs RHP Ethan Elias then threw three clutch hitless innings in relief (with four strikeouts - all swinging) and Steve Perakslis followed with a 1-2-3 9th to keep the Giants at bay, giving the Cubs a chance to win the game in the final frame.
Garrett Schlecht led of the bottom of the 9th by doing what he does best (draw a walk), and advanced to 2nd base on an errant pick-off attempt by Giants reliever Scotty Walker. Shawon Dunston Jr laid down a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Schlecht to 3rd base with just one out, but Carlos Penalver grounded out 6-3 with the infield drawn-in to keep Schlecht at 3rd. That's when Carhart came through with his big two-out hit, the one that put the Cubs into the 2012 AZL playoffs.
Tonight's game was important for the Cubs but absolutely critical for the Giants, because for the G-Men to get into the AZL playoffs as the Wild Card team, they had to win their last four games, and the Cubs needed to lose their last four. The Giants did have the advantage of playing the Cubs twice over their final four games (tonight in Mesa and Monday night in Scottsdale), but it was still a long-shot for the Giants to catch the Cubs before time ran out.
The Cubs still have an outside shot at winning the AZL East Division and finishing with the best record in the league, but to do that they would have to win all three of their remaining games, and the AZL Athletics would have to lose their final three. The Cubs do play the A's Sunday night in Phoenix, but beyond that they will have to beat the Giants on Monday and the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and hope for some assistance from the Giants and Diamondbacks (the A's opponents in their final two games on Tuesday and Wednesday).
To further complicate matters, there is a very remote possibility that the Athletics and Dodgers might have to play a rain-out make-up game on Thursday (delaying the start of the playoffs), but that's only if the Dodgers lose their next four games and the Indians win their last three.
Otherwise, the AZL playoffs are scheduled to begin this coming Thursday (and end on Friday!), with (as things stand right now) the Cubs playing the A's at Papago Park in Phoenix and the Rangers playing the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, and then the winners of those two games meeting in the AZL Championship Game the next day (Friday) at the home field of the last-surviving division winner with the best record. (The Wild Card team does not get a home game, which is unfortunate for the Cubs because they have the best home record in the AZL).
Paul Blackburn (who started tonight) is probably the likely Cubs starter in Thursday's semi-final playoff game versus the A's, and if the Cubs are able to get to the AZL Championship Game on Friday, Cubs 2012 2nd round draft pick RHP Duane Underwood could be the starter in that game.
BTW, minor league baseball is mainly about player development and individual performance, and so as a result it might seem sometimes as though winning isn't all that important. But winning does matter to the players. And there is nothing wrong with developing a winning team attitude that a player can take with him to the higher levels of the minor leagues and (hopefully) eventually to the big leagues.
So congratulations to the AZL Cubs.
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.
So, playing .500 for the rest of the year puts them at 91 wins. You would think there is enough talent to do a little better than that, right?
First team to 60 wins! Onward to 70, 80, 90 and 100!