The New Orleans Baby Cakes kicked off the road portion of their 2017 schedule in Des Moines against the Iowa Cubs in front of 7,031 fans. The Chicago Cubs affiliate was playing their home opener. Cubs fans were all around, as the big league club had an off day which brought out fans looking for more Cubs baseball in the Des Moines area.
The championship atmosphere the Chicago Cubs set the night before at their home opener spilled over to their Triple A affiliate, with fans donning World Champions gear and the public address announcer reminding the crowd that the “I-Cubs” are the Triple A affiliate of the “World Series Champion Chicago Cubs”.
1st and 2nd Innings
The game started with second baseman Steve Lombardozzi popping out to Iowa third baseman and Cubs No. 5 prospect Jeimer Candelario. Shortly after, the Baby Cakes experienced their first ribbing on the road about their new identity as a crying baby sound played over the speaker (it would continue throughout the game). They would go down in order, as Iowa starting pitcher Eddie Butler breezed through the top of the first.
Baby Cakes starting pitcher Justin Nicolino had no trouble in his first inning, striking out John Andreoli to start the bottom half of the frame. Cubs No. 1 prospect Ian Happ ended the inning by grounding out to third baseman Peter Mooney.
The Cubs were able to break through in the bottom of the second. Candelario walked to give the game its first base runner and he scored on a single from first baseman Taylor Davis. With runners on first and second with one out, the Cubs could not muster another run as Nicolino retired the next two batters to limit the damage.
3rd and 4th Inning
Catcher Ramon Cabrera would lead off the inning for the Cakes with a walk, their first player to reach base. His walk would not amount to anything as the next two batters would ground into fielder’s choices and the third out was a pop out to second base. The Cubs would have one lone base runner in the third, from a walk.
Iowa’s Candelario led the bottom of the inning off with a hot shot single that tied up Cakes first baseman Matt Juengel. Cubs No. 15 prospect Victor Caratini would ground into a double play right after. The inning would end after a fly out from Iowa first baseman Davis.
5th and 6th Inning
The Cakes started off the fifth inning with promise after a one-out double off the bat of Cabrera and shortstop Ryan Jackson’s walk. Unfortunately, Nicolino could not get a bunt down for the second at bat in a row and the third out was recorded on a nice catch by Candelario in foul ground. Nicolino would get through the bottom of the fifth by striking out two Cubs and allowing only one base runner.
The sixth inning was the inning New Orleans would get on the board after back-to-back doubles from Hood and den Dekker with two outs. That would be their only run of the inning. Happ would lead the bottom of the sixth off for Iowa with a towering double. Nicolino would be pulled after walking the next batter.
Javy Guerra would take over after Nicolino’s solid outing. Guerra struck out Candelario to start his outing. Caratini grounded into a double play to end the inning.
7th and 8th Inning
Butler cruised through the seventh inning, his last, only walking pinch hitter Isaac Galloway and continuing a superb outing against the Cakes. Guerra came back out in the seventh and put down the Cubs in order, with some help from Mooney who made a nice bare hand play on a bunt attempt from Todd Glaesmann down the third baseline.
In the top of the eighth, the Cakes threatened against reliever Felix Pena by loading the bases with one out. In a weird managerial decision, reliever Guerra batted with one out and the bases full. He would strikeout trying to bunt. The inning would end with Cabrera looking at strike three.
The Cubs still weren’t able to figure out Guerra in the eighth, as he struck out two batters and gets another to pop out. Happ adds a single for his second hit of the game, but it doesn’t get anything going.
The Cakes tried to get some offense going against Pena in the ninth, but were only able to get a single and stolen base out of Isaac Galloway. Pena would finish the game with three strikeouts, two walks and two hits allowed over two innings of scoreless work.
The I-Cubs threatened in the ninth against Cakes reliever Brandon Cunniff. A huge double, which was nearly a home run, from Candelario made an I-Cubs win feel almost certain. After a sacrifice bunt and two walks (one intentional), the biggest play occurred. It was also the most bizarre.
Iowa pinch hitter Ozzie Martinez flew out to Matt dek Dekker, who then threw home to catcher Ramon Cabrera to prevent the runner at third from scoring. The runner at third (Candelario) never left, much to the surprise of Victor Caratini who was trying to advance from second to third. Caratini was three quarters of the way to third when Cabrera threw to the shortstop, Ryan Jackson. Jackson tags Caratini, who is called safe at second, then throws home to pitcher Brandon Cunniff. The throw beats Candelario, capping off your run of the mill 8-2-6-1 double play.
In the top of the tenth inning, Iowa brought in reliever Jack Leathersich to try and get them to the bottom of the inning with no damage done. The Cakes had other ideas. Barnes led off with a single, followed by Hood reaching on a walk. A wild pitch thrown to den Dekker advanced the runners. After den Dekker got hit by a pitch to load the bases, pinch hitter Moises Sierra drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.
In the bottom half of the tenth, Cunniff sat the I-Cubs down in order to seal the victory. Happ came up with two outs, but grounded out to the shortstop to end the game, giving the Baby Cakes a 2-1 extra innings victory. Cunniff would get the win, while Leathersich would get the loss.
The pitching for both teams was solid. Hitters had a tough time making solid contact, besides the five doubles that were sprayed throughout the 13 total hits. These teams will be back in action Wednesday night at 7:38 PM EST at Principal Park in Des Moines, Iowa.