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Chicago Cubs Minor League Wrap: September 20

South Bend comes back and ties up the title series behind three hits from Pete Crow-Armstrong. Alexander Canario hits his first three Triple-A home runs.

MLB All-Star Futures baseball game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Pete Crow-Armstrong
Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Before we get to the big news, right-handed pitchers Kyle Johnson and Peyton Remy were promoted from Tennessee to Iowa. Also, Steven Brault joined Iowa on a minor-league rehab.

We’re starting with South Bend tonight and Iowa, who is normally first, goes last. But stick around for Iowa because there’s big news there.

I’m really sorry there was no video from Lake County. The Captains did not put the game on

South Bend Cubs

The South Bend Cubs edged the Lake County Captains (Guardians), 4-3. The best-of-three Midwest League Championship Series is now tied at one win each.

It looked like game two would go like game one when the Captains scratched out a run in the bottom of the first inning with two singles and a sacrifice fly off of Cubs starter Luis Devers.

South Bend tied the game up 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning when shortstop Luis Verdugo walked, first baseman B.J. Murray Jr. singled to put runners on the corners and catcher Pablo Aliendo singled home Verdugo. All of that happened with one out.

But Iowa couldn’t get any more runs in the top of the fourth and Lake County re-took the lead with a single by Christian Cairo, after which he stole second and scored on a two-out single by Micael Ramirez.

South Bend tied it back up in the sixth when Murray singled, stole second, went third on a single by left fielder Yohendrick Pinango and scored when Pinango stole second base and the throw went into center field.

The Cubs took their first lead of the game in the top of the seventh when right fielder Owen Caissie doubled with two outs and Verdugo singled him home.

In the ninth inning, center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong added on a crucial insurance run with a solo home run.

South Bend manager Lance Rymel summoned Michael McAvene to get the save in the top of the ninth. It did not go smoothly, but McAvene got the job done. McAvene walked the first batter and gave up a line drive that bounced off of second baseman Fabian Pertuz’s glove and into center field. Next, McAvene made it worse with a wild pitch, putting runners on second and third with no outs.

But after a sacrifice fly made it 4-3, McAvene got a sharp groundout to a pulled in infield for the second out and a foul out to end the game and tie the series.

South Bend starter Devers went four innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out three.

Riley Martin kept the Captains in check with two scoreless innings of relief to get the win. Martin surrendered one hit. He walked two and struck out two.

Jake Reindl also allowed one hit and no runs over two innings of relief. He struck out two and walked no one.

Crow-Armstrong went 3 for 5 tonight with a double and the home run. Murray was 2 for 3 with a double and a walk.

The two teams will face off on Wednesday in a winner-take-all game. South Bend is looking for their first Midwest League title since 2019, which makes them the defending Midwest League champions, in my opinion. (The league was called “High-A Central” last year.)

Tennessee Smokies

The Tennessee Smokies got Dolly-Partoned, losing game one of the Southern League playoffs 9-5 to the Rocket City Trash Pandas (Angels).

This game got off to a bad start when the second batter of the game, Preston Palmeiro, hit a two-run home run off Smokies starter Riley Thompson. The Trash Pandas never relinquished that lead. The added another solo home run in the second inning and exploded for four more runs in the fifth, giving Rocket City a 7-0 lead.

The Smokies started a comeback in the bottom of the sixth inning when left fielder Cole Roederer hit a three-run home run. The Smokies made it 7-4 in the seventh when center fielder Zach Davis and right fielder Yonathan Perlaza led off the inning with two singles and a Jake Slaughter ground out scored Davis.

But reliever Blake Whitney allowed two runs in the top of the ninth inning to turn an almost-reasonable three-run deficit into a monumental five-run one. When Perlaza led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run, the Smokies still trailed by four and that’s how it ended.

Riley Thompson took the loss after getting rocked for seven runs on eight hits over 4.1 innings. Thompson struck out three and walked no one.

Dalton Stambaugh kept the Smokies hopes alive with three scoreless innings of relief. Stambaugh gave up just two hits and no walks while striking out six.

Perlaza went 3 for 4 with the home run.

Roderer was 1 for 5 with the three-run home run.

Second baseman Chase Strumpf went 3 for 4 with two doubles. He scored on Roederer’s home run.

The Smokies will now have to win games 2 and 3 at Rocket City on Thursday and Friday or their season will end.

Here is Roederer’s home run.

And here’s Perlaza’s.

Iowa Cubs

Thanks to three home runs by left fielder Alexander Canario, the Iowa Cubs weathered the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals), 12-11.

Iowa starter Matt Swarmer didn’t make it through three innings, giving up five runs, all in the third. Swarmer allowed five hits and he walked two. Swarmer managed one strikeout.

The win went to Jonathan Holder, who relieved Swarmer in the third and went 2.1 innings, retiring all seven batters he faced. Holder struck out three.

Steven Brault entered this game in the bottom of the sixth on a rehab assignment. He failed to retire a single batter, allowing four runs on four hits and a walk.

Thanks to a great throw by center fielder Darius Hill and a generous call by the home plate umpire, Kervin Castro got the save. Castro pitched the eighth and ninth innings. He allowed a run in the eighth and then a leadoff triple to start the ninth. But a perfect throw to the plate by Hill on a fly out nailed Brewer Hicklen and turned a double play. The Storm Chasers argued the call and it did look like Hicklen beat the throw, but the camera angles (or more accurately, angle) in a Triple-A game are definitely not informative enough to say the call was definitely blown.

Castro’s final line was one run on three hits over two innings. He walked two and struck out three.

Canario had struggled in his promotion to Triple-A and had not homered in his first 12 games after hitting 31 combined in South Bend and Tennessee. But he put all of that behind him tonight as he homered in the first, fourth and seventh innings. It was Canario’s first three-home run game of his career. The homers in the first and seventh innings were solo shots and the one in the fourth came with a man on. Canario went 3 for 4 with a walk and the four RBI.

It was the first time that an I-Cub hit three home runs in one game since Mike Freeman accomplished the feat on April 30, 2018.

Catcher John Hicks knocked out his 19th home run on the year, a three-run blast in the third inning. Hicks also hit a two-run double in the fifth, giving him five RBI on the game. He was 2 for 4 with a walk.

Right fielder Narciso Crook was 2 for 4 with an RBI double in the first inning.

Hill went 1 for 4 with two walks and that huge outfield assist. He scored three times.

First baseman Matt Mervis scored four times after going 1 for 3 with two walks and he was hit by a pitch.

Here are Canario’s three home runs. He hit one to right field, one to center and one to left.