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Chicago Cubs Minor League Wrap: September 28

The Smokies season ends in disappointment. Iowa’s season ends with a bang.

Syndication: The Des Moines Register
Jared Young
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s the final day of the season. I wish I had better news out of Tennessee.

Tennessee Smokies

The Tennessee Smokies let the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Marlins) off the hook, 11-4. The Blue Wahoos won the Southern League Championship, two games to one over the Smokies.

Ben Brown got the start for the Smokies and he gave up runs in the first and third inning thanks to some poor defense—mostly his own. The Blue Wahoos scored the first run of the game after a two-out dribbler down the first base line became an infield single after Brown let catcher Harrison Wenson play the ball when Brown needed to make the play himself. The next batter, Norel Gonzalez, then doubled in a run.

The second run scored in the third inning after Brown bobbled what should have been an easy double play on a grounder back to the mound. Brown still had a chance at a play at first base, but he tossed the ball past the first baseman to put runners on second and third. Griffin Conine then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

That looked like all Pensacola needed because Eury Pérez, the Marlins top prospect, struck out the first eight Smokies batters, all of them swinging. But then shortstop Luis Vazquez broke up the streak when he reached second on a two-out infield single and an error in the third.

That gave the Smokies a chance but that they didn’t waste. After center fielder Zach Davis walked, third baseman Jake Slaughter loaded the bases with another infield single. Right fielder Yonathan Perlaza then walked to force in a run and first baseman Nelson Maldonado singled to give the Smokies a 3-2 lead.

Brown finished four innings and left with the lead. He allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits. Brown walked two and struck out six.

But Blake Whitney came on to pitch the fifth inning and things made a turn for the worse. The first batter reached on an error by Maldonado and then Whitney loaded the bases with two walks. (There was a strikeout between the two walks.) With the bases-loaded, Cobie Fletcher-Vance hit a high fly down the left field line that just cleared the wall for a grand slam.

The game was effectively over after that. The Blue Wahoos would put up another four-run inning in the seventh off Bailey Horn to make it 10-3. Left fielder Cole Roederer hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, but Samuel Reyes gave it back in the top of the ninth.

Whitney got the loss with four runs, three earned, on one hit over one-third of an inning. He walked two and struck out one.

Roederer was 2 for 3 with the home run and a walk. Vazquez went 2 for 3.

The road team ended up winning all six postseason games the Smokies played this year.

Iowa Cubs

In the last at-bat of the season, Jared Young hit a two-run walk-off home run as the Iowa Cubs fried the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers), 4-2. Cpl. Klinger’s favorite baseball team still won the three-game series, two games to one.

For those of you hoping that Caleb Kilian would finish the season strong, at least he didn’t end it on a bad note. Kilian pitched three innings and allowed two runs, but only one earned, on four hits. Both runs came in the second inning. Kilian walked two and struck out four.

Cayne Ueckert then threw two scoreless innings without allowing a hit. He did walk one and struck out three.

Cam Sanders made his final pitch for being added to the 40-man roster by throwing two perfect innings of relief. He struck out three of the six batters he faced.

The win went to Kyle Johnson, who gave up one hit and walked one over two scoreless innings. Johnson struck out three.

The Iowa Cubs trailed this game 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth, but right fielder Alexander Canario led off the inning with a massive opposite-field blast that tied the game. It was Canario’s 37th home run this year, pushing him one past Matt Mervis for the Cubs’ minor league home run title. It also ranks Canario second in all of the minor leagues in home runs. Canario was 1 for 2 with three walks.

After left fielder Narciso Crook was hit by a pitch in the ninth, third baseman Jared Young ended the season with his 17th home run of the year. Young was not even scheduled to play in this game since he didn’t even have to report after being optioned yesterday, but he rushed back to Des Moines and insisted that he be allowed to finish out the season. Young went 2 for 5.

Center fielder Darius Hill was 3 for 5 with a double, which gave him 166 hits this season. That ties him with the Guardians’ Will Brennen for the most in all of the minor leagues.

With all that going on, it’s important not to forget that all four of the I-Cubs runs came on homers today as DH Brennen Davis finished the season by hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning. It was, believe it or not, Davis’ first home run ever at Principal Park in Des Moines. It was also his fifth home run in this injury-plagued season and fourth with Iowa. Davis finished the game 1 for 4.

Catcher Erick Castillo went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. His double bounced off the top of the left-field wall in the eighth inning, just narrowly missing what would have been his first home run of the season.

Here’s Davis’ home run.

Canario’s monster blast that tied it. Alexander Canario is a bad, bad man.

And Young’s walk-off. I like Elise Menaker’s comment, “Is that fun or what?”

The Iowa Cubs finish the season 68-81, which puts them in ninth place in the ten-team International League West Division.

And with that, the 2022 Cubs Minor League season is over. Thanks to everyone who has followed along this year and a special thanks to everyone who has commented. It was a pretty exciting season in all, with three of the four full-season teams making the playoffs and league title for South Bend.

We will still have minor league coverage in the offseason, starting with the Arizona Fall League, which begins next week. Our coverage of the Mesa Solar Sox will be weekly updates rather than a daily recap.

See you again in late March of 2023.