DES MOINES, Iowa - Memphis chipped away at a pair of early deficits and stormed to a doubleheader sweep in Saturday night's twinbill against Iowa at Principal Park.
The Redbirds won 5-4 in the first game and grabbed the 6-4 victory in the second. It was the third time this season that the 'Birds have swept a doubleheader, one of those instances coming in May versus Iowa. Memphis ensured a winning record in the season series against the Cubs with the two wins, improving to 10-4 while outscoring them by a margin of 69-40 thus far this season.
The wins boosted the Redbirds record to 54-52, marking the first time the team has been over .500 since April 25 (11-10).
Xavier Scruggs led the offensive charge for the Redbirds in the opener, finishing 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run, a double, two runs scored and a pair of RBIs. The first baseman took the team-lead in runs batted in with a solo home run in the second and before the game was over, added another to boost his total to 57 on the season.
Memphis fell behind early when Tim Cooney struggled to find his command in the first inning. The left-hander allowed three of his four runs in the first courtesy of a Javy Baez three-run bomb over the left field wall. It was the 18th of the season for the Cubs' top prospect and it looked as if Iowa would jump over the Redbirds.
Cooney (W, 10-5, 3.68) began to locate and settled in following the opening frame. The southpaw did not allow a runner past first base again until the sixth, when Iowa added their last tally of the game on a Ryan Kalish RBI single. In total, Cooney managed 5.2 innings with four runs on nine hits, adding seven strikeouts.
The 'Birds offense added two runs in back-to-back frames. Cooney helped himself with a one-out double in the third and scored when Shane Robinson belted his second home run in his last five games. Scruggs and catcher Audry Perez drove in the pair of runs during the fourth inning, advancing the lead to 5-3.
After the Cubs added their run in the sixth, Eric Fornataro entered the game and recorded his ninth save by getting four outs. The right-hander allowed two hits, but left runners at first and second at the game's conclusion.
The second game started with the Redbirds pushing a run across on an error. The 'Birds quickly saw the lead go south though after Javy Baez hit another three-run homer in the opening frame. It was the second time of the night that the shortstop had went deep in the first inning. The Cubs extended their lead in the second to 4-3 when Josh Vitters hit the second home run off Memphis starter Boone Whiting. The right-hander would eventually settle in, much like Cooney did in the earlier contest.
Whiting (W, 4-6, 3.77) earned his fourth straight win on the mound by allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits. He also tied a season-high with nine strikeouts, a mark he set against Iowa back on April 13 at AutoZone Park. The two earned runs bumped Whiting's ERA up to 1.93 over his last seven starts, among the leaders in the Pacific Coast League over that span.
Memphis had averaged only two runs of support in Whiting's 14 previous starts, but they tallied five in the first three innings. Greg Garcia and Ed Easley reached base on back-to-back singles to open the second. Both runners ended up scoring after Iowa's starting pitcher Yoanner Negrin mishandled a ball hit by Whiting. Then in the third, Scruggs and Garcia worked two-out walks and Easley drove them both in with a double into the left field corner. The visitors tacked on one more insurance run in the sixth courtesy of a Tommy Pham single that plated Easley. Memphis' catcher ended up posting a perfect night at the plate, grabbing two hits, walking once, scoring twice and driving in two.
The bullpen kept the lead over the last two innings, as Pedro Feliciano and Jorge Rondon combined to shutout the Cubs. The hitless seventh recorded by Rondon earned the right-hander his fourth save of the season.
The two teams are back at it again tomorrow with another doubleheader at Principal Park. Memphis will turn to Marco Gonzales (1-1, 5.40) in the first game and send out Nick Greenwood (3-3, 2.55) in the second. Iowa will go with a pair of right-handers, as Dallas Beeler will pitch in game one and Carlos Pimentel will start in the finale.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.