The Daytona Cubs won on Wednesday night to even their Florida State League playoff series with Dunedin at one game a piece. Once again, the pitching was the story for the Cubs High-A franchise, and likely will be again tonight when they look to win the series and advance.
The Tennessee Smokies get their playoff run started tonight at home against Chattanooga.
There are plenty of good things to see in Daytona’s 3-1 win over Dunedin. The standout performance was the pitching of Jeffry Antigua. The lefty was as good as we could have hoped, shutting down Dunedin over seven innings. The usually reliable Daytona bullpen was its usually reliable self… but with an unexpected face.
Frank Del Valle got the save in this game, and it is a little surprising just to see him on the Daytona playoff roster, let alone pitching late in a key game. Del Valle started his season in the Arizona Rookie League. He jumped to Peoria where he pitched well for a lengthy stretch late in the year. At the very end of the season he was somewhat of a surprising promotion to Daytona, where he understandably struggled in two starts. On Wednesday night he recorded the final two outs. This is one of the more interesting players to emerge for the Cubs this season. It is good to see him picking up some success in the postseason.
Also starring for Daytona was Matt Szczur. The center fielder known for his speed socked a solo home run in the sixth to give the Cubs a two run lead. Szczur does have some power, but it is generally considered to be the kind of power that generates a lot of doubles to the gaps. He will get a few home runs in the majors; hopefully a few of those home runs will be in the playoffs for Chicago.
Another surprising promotion was starting in the outfield alongside Szczur. Taiwan Easterling was selected by the Cubs in the 27th round this summer and signed right away. Normally guys who are selected that late and sign that fast are not players you expect to climb four levels in half a minor league season… but that is exactly what Easterling has done. He started in Arizona, skipped Boise, played well for Peoria, and finished with a late season promotion to Daytona. All of this came after playing college ball for Florida State, and football before that. Easterling has had a busy year, but it is has been a good one for him. He scored one of the Cubs three runs on Wednesday night.
The final game of the FSL Semi-finals will be tonight in Daytona.
A few hours north of Daytona, the Tennessee Smokies will be starting a five game playoff series against local rivals Chattanooga. The Cubs will send lefty Brooks Raley to the mound to open the series. From his numbers, Raley looks like the typical crafty lefthander. He isn’t going to overpower anyone, but he isn’t going to give away too many runs either. Raley could be in the mix for the Chicago Cubs starting rotation in spring training, though he would be a long shot.