The Iowa Cubs wrapped up their home portion of the 2015 season on Sunday with a 9-1 pasting of the Sacramento River Cats, completing a four-game sweep and giving them a 41-31 record at Principal Park. With nine games remaining in the season, here are five things worth watching down the home stretch:
Can they make the playoffs – It’s a bit of a stretch to think they will but anything is possible. Iowa currently sits 4 four games behind first place Oklahoma City. The Cubs open a five-game series with the Dodgers tonight in OKC and finish with four games against PCL American Southern division leader, Round Rock. Anything less than winning four out of five games in OKC and the Cubs are all but eliminated. Even then, four games on the road at Round Rock (the Express are 43-27 at home) isn’t a desired position to be in. What could affect the entire situation is……
September call-ups – The rosters for Iowa and OKC could look completely different in a few days. Both the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are in the playoff race and will likely not hesitate to take what they need from their AAA affiliates. Reports out of Chicago indicate Javy Baez, Emilio Bonifacio, and Quintin Berry will all be called up tomorrow, September 1. Bonifacio and Berry have only been with the team for a week but there is no doubt that losing Baez will hurt the offense. Baez is currently on a 16-game hitting streak and has also been spectacular on defense as of late. Carl Edwards Jr. is also likely to get the call to Chicago in the “first wave” of call-ups.
How high can it go – Just how many transactions will Iowa have in 2015? It doesn’t seem that a day has gone by without someone coming or going. Taylor Davis being added from AA Tennessee on Friday gave Iowa 194 transactions so far with more coming tomorrow.
Trifecta – Can Carlos Pimentel complete a great season by winning the pitching triple crown? Pimentel currently leads the PCL in ERA at 2.92 with Sacramento starter Clayton Blackburn second (3.23) and former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito third (3.48). Pimentel has 12 wins, tied with Memphis starter Nick Greenwood for most in the PCL, while Sacramento’s Ty Blach and Round Rock’s Ross Wolf have 11 wins each. Pimentel will need to rack up the strikeouts in his final two starts to have any chance. Pimentel has 109 strikeouts on the season and trails league-leader Dan Straily by 10. If Straily gets called up to help the Astros in their playoff chase, Pimentel would have two starts to bypass Straily. Pimentel would also need to bypass Chris Smith (El Paso) with 111 and Jon Gray (Albuquerque) with 110. The last pitcher to win the triple crown in the PCL was then Albuquerque Isotope John Ely in 2012.
ERA – Despite the constant roster turnover, Iowa pitching has been consistently good. Iowa leads the PCL in team ERA, currently at 3.65. A strong finish would break the current team record for ERA which came in 1974 when the team compiled a 3.84 ERA.