Because they are not the drawn-out affairs of the major leagues, things happen quickly in the minor league playoffs. As such, South Bend disposed of second half division champ Bowling Green in just two games.
The Cubs used five scoreless innings from Faustino Carrera and a solid effort from the bullpen to stifle the Hot Rods for a 2-1 victory in the opener at South Bend. Nelson Maldonado and Jake Slaughter each drove in runs to provide all the offense they’d need. Then the Cubs took a six-plus hour bus ride overnight to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the rest of the short series.
On Thursday evening, the Hot Rods and the Cubs got back at it in a seesaw affair. South Bend was trailing 4-3 heading into the 9th before plating four runs to take a 7-4 lead. Brendan King, who already pitched the 7th and 8th innings, returned to get the Hot Rods 1-2-3 in the to clinch the series. Brennen Davis went 3-for-4 with three runs, Cole Roederer went 3-for-4 as well, and Jake Slaughter drove in three runs.
The Cubs will now play Great Lakes, the Dodgers’ class-A affiliate based in Midland, Michigan. The series begins in South Bend Saturday in what will also be a best-of-three series.
The Iowa Cubs are currently engaged in a best-of-five series with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express. The first two games were heart-breakers for the I-Cubs. In the first, they lead 4-2 in the bottom of the 10th before a Dillon Maples meltdown lead to a 5-4 Round Rock victory.
In Game 2 on Thursday, the Cubs had a 3-1 lead at one point before Round Rock crept back in it. Jordan Minch lost the game in the bottom of the 10th without getting an out.
On Friday night, the I-Cubs again got out to a lead thanks to a Jhonny Pereda double. Pitcher Kendall Graveman was fantastic as his rehab stint continues. While limited to just 50 pitches, Graveman went 3.2 innings with five strikeouts, one hit, and no runs allowed. Michael Rucker took the ball from the there and struck out four in his 2.2 innings, but gave up a solo shot to cut the lead to 2-1.
Dakota Mekkes came on in the 7th with men on first and second and, after suffering through a bit of wildness, gave up one run on a walk to make it 3-2. Luckily, that was all the damage and the bullpen held the rest of the night with Alex Wilson and James Norwood, who was hitting 99 mph with his fastball and 90 on his splitter.
Trevor Clifton gets the call Saturday night at home in an attempt to extend the series. If the Cubs win, they play again on Sunday in Des Moines.