DES MOINES - The road has not been a friendly place for the Redbirds in 2010, and its problems away from Memphis’ AutoZone Park may cost them a spot in the Pacific Coast League playoffs. The host Iowa Cubs grabbed a second consecutive victory over their American North rivals Saturday night, doubling up their opponents 8-4.
Memphis now trails by two games with two to play, and must win both to earn the right to defend its league championship. It will be an uphill battle for a squad that is just 32-36 away from home this season.
“We came into the series hot and sometimes streaks tend to slow down,” said Memphis’ Joe Mather, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. “That may be the product of being so hot and now we’re not getting the big hits that we had. We’re certainly not giving up and have a great team with two great pitchers left to go.”
For the second straight night, Iowa came from behind to win.
The Redbirds managed just one hit through 3 2/3 innings off Iowa starter Mitch Atkins until Mark Hamilton launched a shot over the right field wall, cutting Iowa’s lead in half. Mather and Ruben Gotay followed with base hits, before Tony Cruz reached on a Marquez Smith error to load the bases. Jim Rapaport’s two-out, two-run single gave Memphis a 3-2 lead.
Mather’s triple down the left field line with one out in the sixth gave the Redbirds another golden opportunity. Gotay placed a single between first and second to drive in Mather and give his team a 4-2 advantage.
Redbirds starter Lance Lynn held Iowa in check after a rocky first, allowing only an Atkins single and Bobby Scales walk over the next 3 1/3 innings as the Redbirds took the lead.
Memphis appeared to be in the driver’s seat behind Lynn, its leader in wins this season. The right-hander had allowed two or fewer runs in five consecutive starts heading into Saturday’s game, and just one total in his past two outings against New Orleans and Round Rock.
But in two prior starts against Iowa, he had surrendered six earned runs and 12 hits over 10 2/3 innings. And the Cubs once again figured him out in the home half of the sixth.
Cruz’s second throwing error of the night gave the Cubs a scoring chance with nobody out. With Jason Dubois running on a 3-2 count, Lynn walked Bryan Lahair and Cruz’s throw to second bounced into center field. Dubois ended up on third. Scales then sent a Lynn offering over the centerfield wall to give Iowa 5-4 lead.
“None of this stuff happens unless guys in front of you have solid at-bats,” said Scales. “If those guys don’t get on base and I hit a solo home run, that’s great, but we’re still down 4-3. They did a great job, and then I was able to get a fast ball and hit it over their heads.”
Scales’ blast sent Lynn to the dugout after allowing five runs and six hits over five-plus innings. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three in his 106-pitch outing.
Right-hander Chuckie Fick relieved Lynn and gave up a single to Chris Robinson before inducing a double-play grounder by Matt Camp and striking out Atkins to retire the side.
Iowa threatened again in the seventh. Adduci led off with a single and Fick issued a four-pitch walk to Smith. Friday night’s hero Snyder struck again with a two-run double into the right field gap, giving the Cubs a 7-4 lead. Scales struck again with one out, shooting an RBI single to center field off left-handed submariner Rich Rundles and an 8-4 lead.
Fick's final line out of the bullpen was not a good one: three earned runs on three hits over 1 1/3 innings.
Atkins earned the win for Iowa after allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits with six strikeouts over six innings.
Memphis now turns its focus to a pair of must-win games. Right-hander Oneli Perez (2-7, 4.74) will oppose Jeff Samardzija (11-3, 4.02) Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m.
“Iowa is good,” Mather said. “You can never be too comfortable against a team like that. Scales had a big home run, they made some big plays and swung the bat well. We’ve got to tip our caps to them, forget it and come back tomorrow.”
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