September 22 Game Notes: Iowa Cubs at Omaha Storm Chasers
IOWA CUBS (66-77) @ OMAHA STORM CHASERS (69-74)
Thursday - 6:35 PM - Werner Park - Papillion, NE
RHP Cayne Ueckert (3-1, 8.10) vs. LHP Austin Cox (7-7, 4.19)
TONIGHT'S GAME: The I-Cubs and Storm Chasers are set to play game three of their five-game series tonight, with Cayne Ueckert getting the nod for the I-Cubs. The righty is set to make his first career professional start in his 38th game for Iowa. Through his first 37 games, Ueckert is 3-1 with an 8.10 ERA, allowing 42 earned runs on 52 hits and 48 walks in his 46.2 innings pitched. He has struck out 58 batters over that span, with opponents hitting .281 against him. On the other side, Austin Cox will toe the rubber for the Storm Chasers tonight, set to pitch in his 28th game with Omaha and make his 25th start. In his first 27 games, the southpaw is 7-7 with a 4.19 ERA, allowing 63 earned runs on 152 hits and 48 walks while striking out 89 batters. Opponents are hitting .280 against him in his 135.1 innings, while Iowa is hitting .240 as a team against him in 13.0 innings. He is 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts against Iowa, allowing six earned runs on 12 hits and three walks while striking out eight.
WALK THIS WAY: Catcher John Hicks had his six-game hitting streak snapped yesterday, meaning no player can tie Dixon Machado's streak of 14 straight games with a hit set earlier this year. Hicks streak got snapped because he went 0-for-1 while taking four walks out of the cleanup spot for Iowa. He is the first player for Iowa to take four walks in a single game this year and the first since Alfonso Rivas took four walks on July 24 last year against Columbus. It is also the first time Hicks has ever taken four walks in a single game in his entire career. The catcher had taken more than two just once, when he walked three times back on July 20, 2013, against the Mississippi Braves. The most walks in a single game Iowa has had this year was three before yesterday's game, most recently done when Jackson Frazier walked three times against Memphis on May 26. Hicks was not the only player walking for Iowa, as the team combined to take a season-high 11 walks, surpassing their previous high of nine walks done three times this year, most recently in game one of the current series against the Storm Chasers. With their 20 walks through the first two games of this series, Iowa is now just nine free passes away from tying their season-high 29 walks in a single series this year, doing so from April 26 to May 1 against Indianapolis.
SLAM IT SHUT: Iowa had their 33rd comeback victory of the year yesterday, scoring four runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-3 win and a 2-0 series lead over Omaha. In the win, Iowa's starter spun six innings and Ben Leeper entered the game in the seventh trying to hold the three-run lead. He did just that, throwing a perfect final inning while striking out a batter along the way. It marked Leeper's 11th save of the year for Iowa, standing as the only active I-Cubs pitcher to hold more than one save. 11 saves is also the most for an I-Cubs pitcher since Spencer Patton went 11-for-12 in save opportunities in 2016.
FOR THE WIN: Iowa won a series in unconventional fashion yesterday. Game two of the doubleheader was scheduled as the makeup for July 25's rainout, which means when game two was canceled, that series was cut short at just three games. Because Iowa won two of the three games that were played in July, yesterday's cancellation retroactively earned them their first road series win of 2022. That victory makes the I-Cubs 1-5-6 in road series play this season and 5-9-10 in series play overall. Three of their five series wins have come against Omaha, and they have a chance to sweep series play against the Storm Chasers with a victory in tonight's contest.
QUALITY STUFF: Since joining the rotation on August 24, Wyatt Short has made six straight starts, pitched at least four innings in each, limited his opponents to three earned runs or less every time out, and now, logged his first professional quality start. Yesterday, Short became the fourth Iowa starter to pitch six innings in a start this season, joining Brandon Leibrandt, Javier Assad and Caleb Kilian in that category. The outing marked a career high for the lefty, who had never pitched more than 3.1 innings in an outing prior to 2022. He limited the Storm Chasers to three runs, all of which came on a home run, and walked just one batter. He tied his career high with five strikeouts and earned his sixth win of the season, which puts him on top of Iowa's active roster and ties him with Matt Dermody for first on the 2022 season roster as well. With the quality start in the books, Short now holds a 2.12 ERA (8ER/34.0IP) out of the rotation, which compares to the 4.89 mark (19ER/35.0IP) he earned out of Iowa's bullpen. He has already set single-season career highs in starts (6) and innings pitched (69.0), while his six wins tie his career high and his 60 strikeouts put him six away from tying that high as well.
BREAK THE TIE: After Alexander Canario hit three home runs in the series opener on Tuesday, he had 34 home runs on the year, tied for third among all Minor League players this year. He was tied with teammate Matt Mervis, who, like Canario, started the year with High-A South Bend and climbed through Double-A Tennessee to reach his third level of the year in the Cubs' system. Yesterday, however, Mervis broke the tie with a two-run shot to give Iowa an early lead. The deep fly gave him 14 in 51 games with Iowa and 35 overall this year, putting him in sole possession of the third-place slot, just two behind the overall leader. The home run also brought his 114 and 115 RBI on the season, giving him the lead among all Minor League players this year. Entering tonight's game, Mervis is now third among all Minor League players in home runs with 35, first in RBI with 115, fifth in slugging percentage at .613, tied for seventh in OPS at .990, tied for fourth with 39 doubles, first in extra-base hits with 76 and tied for first in total bases with 299. Despite playing in 40 less games than the team-leader John Hicks, Mervis is just five home runs shy of tying the team-lead in home runs.
AGAINST OMAHA: Iowa and Omaha will play game three of their now five-game series, with the second game of yesterday's scheduled doubleheader getting canceled due to inclement weather. Iowa won the first game by a score of 6-3, giving them a 2-0 series lead over the Storm Chasers. The win improved Iowa to 13-4 this year against Omaha, taking each of the first three series between the two teams. The I-Cubs are now 145-158 overall on the road against Omaha, while moving to 322-293 all-time overall against the Storm Chasers. With their three-run win yesterday, they are now outscoring Omaha by 27 runs, at 98-71.
SHORT HOPS: Three of Iowa's five total series wins this year have come against Omaha and a win tonight would give Iowa their sixth series win of the year and fourth against Omaha, winning all four series played against the Storm Chasers...the I-Cubs continued their longest errorless game streak of the year with no errors in yesterday's contest, moving the streak now to six games...with six games left to play this year, Manager Marty Pevey is just four wins away from reaching 600 wins as Iowa's manager.
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