The Iowa Cubs scored three times in the sixth inning en route to a 4-1 win over the New Orleans Zephyrs in the series opener on Monday night.
Kris Bryant, the top-ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, had three hits for Iowa, and Mike Baxter reached base four times as the Cubs won their third consecutive game. The Zephyrs have been held to one run in their last 24 innings, spanning three losses, and have collected only 12 hits -- 11 of them singles.
"It's tough early in the season because everything is magnified," Zephyrs manager Andy Haines said. "Hitters want to get off to a good start and the tendency is to try to do too much. You can't have a good season in a matter of five to seven days."
Iowa took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Baxter followed a two-out single by Rafael Lopez with a double to center field. The got even in the bottom half of the inning, as Scott Sizemore was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a Miguel Rojas bunt single combined with a Bryant throwing error, and scored on Jhonatan Solano's sacrifice fly.
That was the first run the Zephyrs had pushed across since the third inning on Saturday, and the unearned run was the only dent on Iowa starter Yoanner Negrin's line. Negrin scattered five hits across 4 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and no walks.
Zephyrs starter Robert Morey and reliever Vin Mazzaro teamed to keep the I-Cubs off the board until the sixth. Junior Lake led off with a single, and eventually scored on a throwing error by catcher Solano on a steal of third base. Mazzaro gave up a double to Lopez and a walk to Baxter, and Salvador Sanchez came on to issue a bases-loaded walk to Adron Chambers and a sacrifice fly to Addison Russell to extend the Cubs advantage to 4-1.
Winning pitcher Gonzalez Germen (1-0) and James Russell combined to hold the Z's hitless for 3 1/3 innings until Joseph Ortiz surrendered a leadoff single to Brady Shoemaker in the ninth, but Ortiz retired the next three Zephyrs to pick up his first save.
Mazzaro (0-1) was charged with three runs and five hits in 2 1/3 innings to suffer the defeat.
Left-hander Justin Nicolino gets the start for the Zephyrs when the series resumes on Tuesday at 6 p.m., and will be opposed by Iowa right-hander Donn Roach.