The Thursday night games for the Cubs were exciting ones. Thanks to a big inning a piece, Daytona won their Florida State League playoff series, and Tennessee opened their Southern League playoffs with a win. Both teams will be in action again tonight.
For Daytona, the next challenge is a five game series against St. Lucie in the New Yorks Mets’ organization. That series opens tonight in Daytona. Game Two will be in Daytona as well, and the last three will be played at St. Lucie. Winning their two home games in this series will be important for the Cubs.
Daytona beat Dunedin 4-3 thanks to a four run eighth inning. With runners on base and the game on the line, Daytona was able to string together single after single after single, working through three different Dunedin pitchers in the frame. Several Cub prospects performed when it mattered most, including Logan Watkins (1 R), Matt Szczur (1 RBI), Justin Bour (1 RBI) and Matt Cerda (3 hits, 1 R, 1 RBI). On the mound, starting pitcher Matt Loosen kept the Cubs in the game, and All-Star closer Frank Batista nailed down the ninth for a save.
The Cubs and the St. Lucie Mets look fairly evenly matched on paper. Both the offense and the pitching numbers for these teams are very similar and both have winning road records. I might have to give a slight edge to Daytona since they open the series at home, but if St. Lucie wins their home games they will be crowned champions. It should be a good series.
In Tennessee, the story all season has been the Smokies offense. At the start of the year it featured a number of very good hitters like Brett Jackson, Ryan Flaherty, D.J. LeMahieu, and Marwin Gonzalez. All of those players were promoted to Iowa for the second half of the season, and Tennessee had to reload with Jae-Hoon Ha and Junior Lake. On Thursday night, though, it was the guys who had been in Tennessee all season, Josh Vitters, Steve Clevenger, Rebel Ridling, Blake Lalli and Jim Adduci who did the most damage. The highlights came from Vitters and Lalli who both smacked two run homers as the Smokies rode a seven run fourth inning to a Game One win.
Brooks Raley had a shakier start than I expected. He was lifted in the fourth and gave up five runs and three home runs. Fortunately, the bullpen did not surrender anything until the ninth inning when closer Rafael Dolis got himself in trouble and coughed up one run before escaping with the win intact.
Tonight the Smokies send Ryan Searle to the mound. As a starter in Double A, Searle has an ERA of just 3.08 and has only allowed .237 batting average against.