You’re the Iowa Cubs. You’re in Albuquerque in game eight of a nine-game road trip, trying to make it home still clinging to a slight edge over the fast-closing Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals), who will meet you in Des Moines this weekend for a season-ending, division-clinching four-game set. Two of your starting pitchers, Coleman and Diamond, were called up to Chicago in August. Two others, Samardzija and Jackson, have been struggling lately. You always seem to be fighting from behind. Last Sunday, you needed four runs in the top of the ninth to edge Omaha 8-7. Yesterday you played a doubleheader against Albuquerque, the highest-scoring team in the PCL. In the first game, you trailed 11-4 in the fifth and lost 11-10. In the second game, you trailed 5-2 in the fifth and came back to win 8-6. But today is tougher. It’s the top of the ninth, and Albuquerque has thirteen runs to your six.
The score was actually a little worse than that, 11 or 12 to 3 in the sixth inning, when I stopped watching the score and went to bed. I missed the twelve runs that Iowa scored in the final three innings, including nine in the top of the ninth. That ninth inning saw three singles, two doubles, two three-run homers, and two errors. There was just one walk, a wild pitch, and a pitching change. The scoring began with a three-run blast by Dubois and ended with another by Marquez Smith. The final tally was 15-13 in favor of Iowa. That was the amazing score that greeted me in the morning when I checked to see how the Memphis game ended up, and also how bad the final result had been in Albuquerque.
Watching the progress of Cub prospects via box scores from day to day, I have become a fan of the various teams in the organization. If like me you cared about the Iowa Cubs, this had to be the greatest game ever. It was big for the team and also for various prospects, including the manager. It will be good for Sandberg if the team makes the postseason, and even better if they win the title. His team usually seems to have more fight–for whatever reason–than the opponent.
It’s good for Brad Snyder, who knocked in his 100th and 101st runs in the game, on the same day that he was announced as one of the PCL postseason all stars, along with Darwin Barney. These honorary all-star teams are about three times as selective as the midseason ones, since there is only one team instead of two (east/west or north/south) and there are few subs.
It was good for Marquez Smith, whose twentieth homer of the season was the game winner. Seventeen of Smith’s homers have been hit for Iowa, and he hit twelve in the month of August alone. And now here was another home run on the first of September. Smith is a pretty good defensive infielder who began his pro career as a third baseman but has had to learn a little second base, since he has not always demonstrated a third-baseman’s pop. Now the power stroke seems to have arrived, just when the Cubs were getting serious about replacing Ramirez at third.
Smith’s line at Iowa this year in 319 plate appearances is .327/.399/.605/1.004. For comparison, Casey McGehee’s line at Iowa in his best year there, when he was the same league-age (25) as Smith, was .296/.345/.429/.774, with twelve home runs. McGehee hit sixteen homers last year with Milwaukee, and he has twenty so far this season.
The game may also have been good for Jason Dubois, who was a sometime-DH until Derrek Lee was traded and Hoffpauir got the call-up in late August. Playing regularly for the first time this season, Dubois has been on a rampage. He actually had two three-run homers yesterday. Dubois is earning himself another visit to Chicago later this month. He’ll be 32 next season and the Cubs don’t consider him any sort of prospect, but with Lee gone and Nady on the way out, Dubois finds himself in a favorable situation. Situation means everything for a slugger with no versatility (and there are many such in AAA) like Dubois.
When the Cubs decide on their minor-league player-of-the-year in a week or two, it will be between Snyder, Barney and Smith, plus the three Southern League postseason all stars, Campana, Guyer and Chirinos (now at Iowa). The Tennessee duo is in the playoffs already, while the Iowa players are still straining to make it there.
If they ever make a movie of the 15-13 game, they might have to cut the following scene out of the script, as too improbable. It happened during the nine-run ninth:
Link struck out Mota for the first out of the inning, but pinch-hitter Jim Adduci hit a line drive to third that literally went through the glove of Russ Mitchell at third base. Scales scored and Robinson scampered to third as the ball rolled away. After the play, Mitchell got a new glove from the Isotopes’ dugout as the webbing was ripped away from the thumb of his old glove. It was 13-11 and the Cubs had the tying runs on base.
(From the Iowa Cubs website)