TONIGHT'S GAME: The Iowa Cubs and Round Rock Express play game two of a four-game series at Dell Diamond. The Express are the Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Texas Rangers. This is the only stop on this road trip and the 17th of 19 straight games against American League affilates for the Cubs.
TIME TO MAKE THE DONUTS: The Cubs claimed the opening game of this series with a 7-0 win over the Express last night. RH Dallas Beeler (6-3) limited the Express to three hits and struck out four in seven innings to earn the win. It was his ninth quality start in 12 outings with the Cubs. Marcus Hatley and Armando Rivero each pitched a scoreless inning to finish the Cubs' eighth shutout win of the season and their fifth on the road. Only Nashville (9) has pitched more shutouts than the Cubs this year. This is the most shutouts for the Cubs since blanking their opponents 10 times in 2009.
ARMS RACE: Last night's shutout dropped the Cubs' team ERA to 3.86 (364ER/849.2IP) on the season. Only Nashville has a lower ERA (3.54) in the league this year. The Cubs are also second in the league in fewest walks (278) and strikeouts (800). Round Rock has issued the fewest walks (253) in the PCL this year and Nashville leads in strikeouts (858). The Cubs ranks fourth in the league with a 3.60 ERA (55ER/137.1IP) in July behind Nashville (3.18), Fresno (3.37), and Memphis (3.50). The Cubs have finished with a sub-4.00 ERA in each month so far this year.
NEW POSITION, SAME BAT: Javy Baez made his first pro start at second base last night and helped the Cubs turn three double plays on defense. He also had two hits, including a double and a homer, while driving in three runs at the plate. Baez has hit safely in 11 straight games, tying his longest hit streak of the season. Last night was his first multi-hit game as part of this streak. He is batting .273 (21-for-44) with five doubles, four home runs, 11 RBI, and seven runs scored during this current stetch. Baez' streak is the third-longest on the team this season and the second-longest of his career. Arismendy Alcantara had a 13-game hitting streak (June 22-July 3) and Logan Watkins had a 12-game streak from April 12-26. Baez had a 16-game hitting streak with single-A Peoria in 2012.
VS. ROUND ROCK: The Cubs lead this series 1-0 and lead the season series 7-6. The Cubs and Express split the first three head-to-head series this season, including an extended eight-game set where both teams hosted four games in their home park, May 15-22. This is the final series between the teams this year. Last year, the Express won the season series 10-6, including a 6-2 mark at Dell Diamond. The Express lead the all-time series 81-76 and hold a 43-34 advantage at home.
HIGH ROLLERS: 3B Kris Bryant had three hits last night, including a double and a home run that got the Cubs on the board in the second inning. The home run was Bryant's 10th in 25 games with Iowa and his 32nd overall on the season, giving him the minor league lead by one over fellow Las Vegas native Joey Gallo of the Rangers' organization. Bryant also leads all of minor league baseball in total bases (42), extra-base hits (59), RBI (82), slugging (.712), and OPS (1.158). He is second in runs (79), third in OBP (.446), and tied for third in batting (.350). Bryant has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games and is batting .356 (16-for-45) with four doubles, four home runs, nine RBI, and eight runs scored. Last night was his fourth three-hit game with Iowa.
SWEET SIX: SS Chris Valaika had two hits last night for his 28th multi-hit game of the season, tying Arismendy Alcantara for the team lead. Valaika has hit safely in a season-high six straight games and is batting .333 (7-for-21) with a home run and three RBI during this stretch. INF Logan Watkins didn't play last night, but had a hit and scored a run on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to six games. He has batted 8-for-23 (.348) with three doubles, a home run, five RBI and five runs scored in those contests.
BACK ON TOP: Last night's win, coupled with Omaha's loss at home against New Orleans, moved the Cubs back into first place in the American Northern Division by a half-game over the Storm Chasers. The Cubs had been leading the division since June 30 before a loss last Sunday dropped them a half-game behind the Storm Chasers in the standings. The Cubs have held at least a share of the division lead for 45 days this season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.