Yesterday was a fun day to be a Cub fan. The big league club won 8 to 6 over San Francisco in a game that was closer than it needed to be. In the minor leagues, the night games turned out to be just as much fun as the day game. The big league Cubs continue to win games (nine out of the last 10) and they have opened up a 2 and 1/2 game lead in the wildcard race. In the minors, the Tennessee Smokies’ bats have come alive in a big way. Yesterday they plated 14 runs. Overall, yesterday was a fun day from 3 in the afternoon to midnight as the entire system put on a show for all to see.
Since July 1 Jake Stinnett has a 3.28 ERA, and in 2 August starts, he has a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings. Stinnett has a lot of movement on all his pitches and has been going deep into games the last month. Last night he went seven strong, struck out six, walked one, and gave up one run on a wild pitch. This is about as good as gets for the 2014 2nd round pick. As the season has progressed, Stinnett has slowly improved and made adjustments including taking a little bit off his pitches to get more control. Next year, if he continues the arc he is on this year, we could see him move a little faster through the system.
Yesterday Kris Bryant drove in 3 runs in the Cubs victory. He legged out a fielder’s choice to beat out a double play and drive in a run. He later blasted a two run HR and he played solid defense after a guffaw earlier in the week. Bryant had been in a slump in July. He hit .168 for the month and he really could have used a break instead of the All-Star festivities. He got his second wind this week. In his last seven games, Bryant is hitting .286, 1 HR, with an astounding .484 OBP . All of this has come since Bryant was moved down to the five spot. In addition, I think Bryant’s ability to get on base is also helping out teammate Jorge Soler who has been on fire this week, too.
Honorable Mention: Robert Garcia went 3 for 5 for the AZL Cubs.
I honestly don’t get why Pierce Johnson is still in AA. On Saturday night, he won his sixth game and lowered his ERA to 1.61. He allowed three hits over seven innings, struck out seven, and walked one. The only run came on a homerun. In 10 starts at AA Tennessee, Johnson has struck out 42 in 54 and 2/3 innings. The only thing holding him back is that is that he has walked 22 in those same 54 2/3 innings. It’s amazing as he’s only allowed 10 runs in his 10 starts. I think he’s someone to definitely look at for the fifth starter position for next year. The only thing he has left to prove in the minors is that he can pitch deep into games and not issue walks.
In Chicago, A player right now fits that the hotter category is Justin Grimm. Grimm came in to get to the save Saturday and in his last seven games he’s pitched 5 and 1/3 innings, struck out six, and has not allowed an earned run to go along with a WHIP of 0.38. It’s amazing to watch the confidence in which he throws now. He comes in and just lets it rip. In fact, when the game has been on the line twice this week, Maddon has called Grimm to put out the fire.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Sepulveda went 2 for 4 w/2 RBIs for the AZL Cubs. His average has risen 75 points in the last 3 weeks.
In eight games this month, Albert Almora is hitting .382 with a .462 on-base percentage. He has 13 hits in 34 at bats and has walked five times. Since the end of the Pan Am games, Almora has been a totally different player than the player who left to go play for his country. Every day he’s a human highlight reel in the outfield as he tracks down every fly ball headed for the fence or the gap. The first round pick from 2012 looks like a first round pick rather than the player who was playing in Tennessee the first half. No one is harder on Almora than himself. He’s well aware of what he needs to do to make it. And from the looks of things, if he continues at this pace, he will make it to Iowa next spring and Chicago hopefully soon after.
The hottest player at the major-league level is Kyle Schwarber. This wasn’t even really a hard decision to make. Since Schwarber came back up, the Cubs offenses taken off. And in his last seven games, Schwarber has three home runs with nine RBIs. He’s hitting .370 with a .452 on base percentage in that span. Every ball he hits is hit hard. It’s been amazing to watch him this weekend almost single-handedly lead the Cubs to victory, Against San Francisco, Schwarber has five runs, five hits, in 12 at bats (.417) and six RBIs along with a stolen base for good measure. It’s going to be fun watching him down the stretch.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 8, 2015
Honorable Mention: Oscar De La Cruz – 6 innings, o ER, 6 Ks, and 0 BBs. ERA down to 2.39.
Minor league hitter of the week
Albert Almora – see reasons above
Minor league pitcher the week
Eric Leal of South Bend threw a nine inning no-hitter but got a no decision as the Cubs lost in 12 innings to Kane County. In his last 3 starts/23 innings, Leal has allowed only three earned runs for an ERA of 1.17. The 6’3” right-hander from Venezuela has been doing well in the second half of the summer. Since the All-Star break in the middle of June, he has a 2.85 ERA in six starts as opponents are only batting .215 against him.
I’ll be off to Beloit, Wisconsin this week, which is only 40 minutes from my house, to see the South Bend Cubs play the Beloit Snappers. It looks like as of today that I’ll get to see Eric Leal and Trevor Clifton on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. It should be a lot of fun. Also, Matt Rose was promoted yesterday from Eugene to South Bend. I really want to get a good look at him to see what he can do at third base as well as his swing.