Defense winning championships may be something of a tired cliché, but as Class A Advanced Daytona reminded playoff opponents this September, it's tough to win if you don't score.
On Monday, C.J. Edwards had his second sterling outing of the playoffs, striking out three over five one-hit frames, and reliever Ryan Searle followed with four perfect frames. The result was a 4-0 Daytona win over Charlotte that gave the Cubs the Florida State League championship trophy.
The title was Daytona's sixth overall and first since 2011. The Cubs won the best-of-5 series, 3-1, and improved to 10-0 all-time in postseason series during their 21-year existence. The shutout was Daytona's fourth in six postseason games.
Edwards, the Cubs' No. 11 prospect, retired the first seven batters in order before Jake DePew drew a one-out walk. Edwards also allowed a single to Jake Hager in the fourth and a walk to Alejandro Segovia in the fifth, but worked around each of those baserunners to finish his five frames unscathed.
The Cubs did not allow an earned run over the first 43 innings of their postseason run, including three consecutive shutouts after a 6-1 win over Dunedin in their first game. Charlotte didn't score a run until Sunday, when Jonathan Quinonez mashed a pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the eighth and later drove in the walk-off run in the ninth in a 3-2 victory that forced Game 4.
Monday's start was Edwards' second in the postseason. His first was in the decisive Game 2 against Dunedin, when the 22-year-old struck out eight over five hitless innings in a 4-0 win.
"It's a different atmosphere when you're in the playoffs," Edwards said. "I don't care if it's the Arizona League or the Dominican Summer League, once the playoffs come, everything changes. Your body changes and everything.
"You're going to have butterflies. ... I focus in every game, but in the playoffs, you have to have more of it. It's a different atmosphere, and it feels like anything can happen."
The right-hander is one of four starting pitchers Daytona used in the playoffs -- including Cubs' No. 7 prospect Pierce Johnson, Corey Black and Ivan Pineyro. That group combined to toss 33 scoreless innings, allowing 15 hits while striking out 33 and walking seven.
Per MLB.com's rankings, Edwards and Johnson are the two best starting pitching prospects in the team's hitter-heavy farm system. The 22-year-old Black and 21-year-old Pineyro are also considered potential Major Leaguers and parts of Chicago's rebuild.
Edwards, Black and Pineyro were all acquired in midseason trades by the organization, while Johnson -- a 2012 first-round Draft pick (43rd overall) -- was promoted from Class A Kane County in June.
"Everybody is here for one thing and that's to just help each other win and help each other out," Edwards said. "If somebody has a bad game and you see something and say something, they don't see it as criticism. They see it as what it is."
Daytona's incredible run prevention this September is also a credit to its defense. Dave Keller praised his team after Saturday's 2-0 win for its consistency and dependability, but the Cubs have also done the spectacular of late.
In Saturday's win, Zeke DeVoss made what Keller called "One of the top two or three plays I've seen this year by anybody" with a sprawling snag on a ball ripped over his head in center field. DeVoss shined again Sunday, throwing out a runner at home on a single up the middle.
On Monday, the biggest plays came from Elliot Soto. In the fifth, the shortstop went deep into the hole to nab a ball that deflected off third baseman Kris Bryant's glove. Soto snagged it on the backhand and nabbed Hector Guevara out at first base.
Soto also made the final out of the game, retiring Hager with another nifty play at short.
Quinonez, the hero of Sunday's Charlotte victory with a pinch-hit home run and a walk-off single, committed two errors on the same play in the second, which led to a Daytona run. Quinonez was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth.
Offensively Monday, Daytona got three singles and an RBI from No. 10 prospect Dan Vogelbach and got two hits apiece from Chadd Kirst and Wes Darvill. No. 4 prospect Kris Bryant went 0-for-3, but was one of the team's biggest postseason contributors, finishing with a .350 playoff average and a .908 OPS.