DES MOINES, Iowa - Memphis opened its longest road trip of the season by withstanding a late comeback attempt and charging to a 3-2 win over Iowa at Principal Park on Friday night.
The Redbirds saw Iowa send seven hitters to the plate in the ninth and score a run, but after getting a runner thrown out at the plate, the Cubs fell victim to a game-ending strikeout with the bases loaded. It was Memphis' 12th win in a one-run game, tied for fewest in the league.
Left-hander John Gast (W, 3-2, 5.04) set the tone early and picked up his first win since July 3. He worked six innings and allowed only two hits on 83 pitches, 56 of them going for strikes. The starter walked two and fanned six, advancing his ERA to 1.14 over his last four outings.
The offense got an unexpected boost from bench player Luis Mateo (3-4, 2 2B, R) who recorded his third three-hit game of the season. The second baseman led off the fifth inning with his second double of the game and scored on a single by Shane Robinson. The 'Birds kept it going when Randal Grichuk followed Robinson by powering the fourth pitch of his at-bat over the left field wall for a two-run home run. The longball was Grichuk's team-leading 19th homer of the season and with the win, it propelled Memphis' record to 15-3 when the outfielder has hit a home run.
Iowa grabbed its first run of the game in the sixth when Ryan Kalish found his way aboard with a bunt single. After a balk and a flyout, Cubs' top prospect Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly to bring Kalish home. The Cubs tacked on the run in the ninth, but eventually saw their three-game winning streak end.
The Memphis bullpen was strong at first, before experiencing some turbulence later in the game. Left-handers Nick Greenwood and Dean Kiekhefer both threw perfect innings, before Angel Castro picked up his first save of the season. Castro had the Cubs down to their last strike twice but finally finished them off on the third try with a game-ending, bases loaded strikeout.
The series continues tomorrow with the first of two doubleheaders over the next two days. Memphis will send Tim Cooney (9-5, 3.55) out for game one and have right-hander Boone Whiting (3-6, 3.52) follow him in game two. Iowa is expected to go with the pair of Dan Straily (4-5, 4.73) and Yoanner Negrin (0-2, 5.02) for the double dip. The first pitch of the night is expected at 6:05 pm.