DES MOINES, Iowa -- Jeff Samardzija gave up a walk and a pair of home runs (one a two-run job from Ike Davis) in the first three innings and I thought, "Here we go again," but Shark settled down and wound up throwing seven credible innings, with a fairly efficient 99 pitches (64 strikes).
I wish I could tell you more about this game, but I did not see any of it, thanks to Bud Selig's Iowa blackouts! Arriving at my Des Moines hotel just after game time, I discovered the hotel did not have WGN on its cable system (and the TV in the room wasn't working anyway), so I fired up the AtBat app on my iPad -- no dice. BLACKOUT RESTRICTIONS, angrily said the app.
So I tried my computer. Despite the fact that the hotel IP address resolved to somewhere in Austin, Texas, Bud and his minions somehow figured out that my computer, too, was in Iowa, and thus I should have either:
- Driven the 1,133 miles from the hotel to Citi Field to see the game in person, or
- Spent the rest of the day lobbying the hotel to pick up WGN so I could watch.
Seriously, Bud, on what planet does it make sense to black out a hotel visitor from Chicago who wants to watch a baseball game on television? Again, technology should make it easy to figure out that I am a paid MLB.TV customer on the road who should be able to watch his favorite team.
Beyond dumb. After the jump, more on the I-Cubs' victory over the Omaha Storm Chasers Saturday night.
As Josh mentioned in his minor league wrap, Iowa's Chris Rusin, scheduled to make the start, must have suffered some sort of injury while warming up, because when the game started, righthander Esmailin Caridad was on the mound. (Even the Des Moines Register recap of the game doesn't mention why Rusin was pulled.) Clearly, Caridad had little time to prepare either mentally or physically, because the Storm Chasers nearly chased him in the first inning. He walked the first hitter he faced and after a forceout, gave up a sharp single to Lorenzo Cain.
But the I-Cubs turned a slick double play, started by second baseman Adrian Cardenas, and after that, Caridad settled down. He did issue two more walks -- I-Cubs pitchers walked an alarmingly high total of eight -- and would have gotten out of his three innings unscathed if not for an error by Josh Vitters allowing Chris Getz to reach base with one out in the third. A double down the line by Johnny Giovatella put Getz on third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Cain.
Don't be too hard on Vitters, as he made a couple of nice defensive plays later and also doubled in the lead run in the eighth inning; the I-Cubs held on for a 5-4 win over Omaha.
By the time Omaha scored that third-inning run, the I-Cubs already had a 2-0 lead, courtesy of three hits beginning the game off Will (Not A Man In Black) Smith to score one run, and then three more in the second. One of those hits was by Jim Adduci, who had just been promoted to Iowa from Double-A Tennessee on Saturday. Adduci got another hit in the eighth-inning rally that won the game.
The Iowa lineup looked like a spring-training split-squad game; I had actually seen eight of the nine hitters play already this year (all except catcher Brian Esposito, a 32-year-old scrap-heap pickup by the Cubs organization because of all the catcher injuries earlier this season), and three of them (Cardenas, Welington Castillo and Blake Lalli) have played with the major-league Cubs this year. All three Iowa catchers were in the lineup; Castillo was the DH and Lalli played first base. Lalli contributed a nice defensive play, too; after Ryan Rowland-Smith walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh, with the score then tied 2-2, he snared a line drive while Cain was taking a long lead off first base. Tumbling to the ground, he slapped first base with his glove for a double play while Cain stood there with a "What just happened?" look on his face.
Though Rowland-Smith threw four innings and gave up just one run, I can't say he pitched well; he issued four walks and never touched 90 MPH. RRS is 29 and has pitched in 115 major-league game and is lefthanded; you'd think a guy like that might have a shot to help the Cubs' major-league bullpen at some point, but not with control problems like that. Caridad also had control issues, walking three in his three innings, but some of that might be attributable to having to get ready quickly. Caridad is 28 and coming off arm surgery a couple of years ago; maybe he can still get back to the major leagues.
The pitcher I was intrigued to see was lefthander Jeff Beliveau. I'd seen him once in spring training, and he didn't impress. He wasn't great Saturday night, either, allowing a pair of runs on four hits and issuing a walk, though he was credited with the "win" after the I-Cubs took that 5-3 lead in the last of the eighth. (Another reason individual pitcher wins, particularly at the minor-league level, mean so little). It was the first time the I-Cubs had won consecutive games in a month. Sound familiar?
Principal Park is the second ballpark built on the current site; it's partly named after its predecessor, Sec Taylor Stadium (the current park is officially named "Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park"). It was built in 1992, designed by HOK Sport, the same architects who designed two Arizona spring-training facilities built in that era: Scottsdale Stadium and Peoria Sports Complex, and they must have used the same template for all three, because Principal Park is quite reminiscent of those Arizona ballparks (without the grass berms, though).
It's got a wide concourse and about 12,000 seats, all of which have good sightlines. I never did make it out to the "Budweiser Bleachers" (Hmmm... where have I heard that before?), as it was quite hot before the game and those seats, in right field, were directly in the sun. My seat, behind the main aisle seven rows behind the third-base dugout, had both an excellent view of the field and a view of the Iowa State Capitol beyond the outfield walls. (Thanks to BCBer mrcubsfan for arranging the ticket!)
I can see why this park is not considered a great hitters' park. The outfield walls, covered with the usual minor-league assortment of advertising, have to be at least 20 feet high. The double hit by Vitters in the eighth inning would have been a home run in most ballparks. That makes what Anthony Rizzo did before his recall that much more impressive.
There's a manually-operated linescore for the Iowa game below the main scoreboard in right field; the board includes a small video board as well as another board for balls and strikes, various other info and out-of-town scores. The video board is about the size you could put into Wrigley Field's existing footprint -- but that size is way too small for a major-league stadium.
Not way too small were the concession prices, which were about the same as you'd pay at a major-league stadium. I had a Philly Cheesesteak, which was pretty good and not unreasonable for $7.50.
Any complaints, though, are... minor. It was a pleasant evening of baseball at a nice minor-league stadium; like its major-league counterpart, they appear to announce tickets sold for their attendance count. The 7,691 announced was probably more like 5,000 in the house. Many had left by the time the game ended, which made getting out of the parking lot a breeze.
Later this morning, on to Kansas City for the All-Star festivities. I'll have a wrap of the Futures Game Monday morning. Sunday's major-league Cubs game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CDT.