After preserving leads in the first five games of the season, the Iowa Cubs’ bullpen faltered for the first time on Wednesday, allowing runs in the eighth, ninth and tenth innings in a 3-2 loss to the New Orleans Zephyrs.
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After John Andreoli, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant all struck out swinging in the top of the tenth inning, the Cubs turned the ball over to left-hander Dallas Britton in the bottom of the frame. The southpaw got off to a rocky start, surrendering a leadoff double to Jhonatan Solano, who was then retired on a fielder’s choice for the first out of the tenth.
With a runner at first and one out, Jordan Valdespin then single to right, putting men on first and second. A walk to Austin Wates loaded the bases, prompting a visit to the mound from the Iowa pitching coach. That chat did little to help the Cubs as a sacrifice fly to center plated Nick Wittgren, lifting New Orleans to a walk-off win in front of the home faithful.
Iowa (3-3) carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning and looked poised to pick up a fourth-straight win before things unraveled in the late innings. Blake Cooper, Blake Parker and Britton combined to allow three earned runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings of work – walking four.
The Cubs got an outstanding start from right-hander Donn Roach, who allowed just one base hit in six innings of work, striking out three. His counterpart, Justin Nocolino, also turned in six shutout frames, although he was hit for five hits, while walking two and striking out four.
An RBI single from Jonathan Mota scored Kris Bryant for the second run of the game in the top of the eighth and Kevin Brown drove in a run an inning earlier – accounting for the only tallies for the Iowa offense.
Chris Valaika and Mota accounted for the only two-hit games for the Cubs on Wednesday. Kris Bryant and Addison Russell combined to go 1-for-8 with four strikeouts and a walk in the loss.
What Stood Out:
Roach has been lights-out early-on for Iowa this season, posting a 3.18 ERA in two starts spanning 11 1/3 innings. The right-hander isn’t necessarily a strikeout pitcher, tallying just five punch-outs on the year – but his results have been impressive so far.
Iowa (3-3) and New Orleans (2-4) will play a doubleheader on Thursday night before returning to Des Moines for the home opener against Oklahoma City on Friday.