The South Bend Cubs just wrapped up their most successful homestand since becoming a Chicago Cubs affiliate. With 11 wins in 12 games against the Peoria Chiefs and Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Cubs find themselves right back in contention in the Midwest League's West Division.
Now only four games back of the Cedar Rapids Kernels for first place, and just two games behind the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers for second place, the Cubs are looking to position themselves even more in striking range as they begin a new road trip.
A six-game series against the Timber Rattlers awaits the Cubs this coming week from Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin. If the Cubs have the same amount of success they did against Peoria and Fort Wayne, South Bend could be knocking right on the door of first place by this weekend.
In their previous series, Wisconsin managed similar success to South Bend, as they took five of six games from the Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa. Wisconsin, the Midwest League affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, has shown a skillful balance of talent both on the mound and at the plate.
For the Cubs, they maintain their Midwest League lead in both batting average and base hits. As a team, South Bend is hitting .257, and has hammered 275 hits on the year. On the rubber, the Cubs have the fourth lowest team ERA in the league at 3.75. 337 strikeouts for the pitching staff also clocks in at second best in the league.
The Timber Rattlers do not have the same regards when it comes to ranking towards the top of the league in major statistics. But as a team, they have shown a strong ability in controlling ballgames at their pace.
Players to watch on Wisconsin…
Tristan Peters, OF: The native of Manitoba, Canada immediately stands out when you look at any prospect rankings in the Midwest League. Peters is working on a league high 23-game on base streak, and a hitting streak that stands at 7 in a row. The Brewers selected Peters in the seventh round of the 2021 MLB Draft. After a stint last season in rookie ball, Peters was sent to High-A Wisconsin as a part of their opening day roster in 2022. He is hitting .306 with two homers and 13 RBI in 28 games. The former Southern Illinois - Carbondale collegiate player finished his NCAA career by hitting .355 in his lone season in college. In Wisconsin’s last away series at Quad Cities, Peters went 9/24 with four RBI. South Bend pitchers will have their hands full trying to keep the talented lefty off the base-paths this week.
Zach Mort, RHP: There are six 2019 Midwest League Champions on the current South Bend Cubs roster. Of those six, three of them were on the active roster when the Cubs clinched the title over the Clinton LumberKings in Cole Roederer, Jake Slaughter, and Caleb Knight. However, there will be four guys in the ballpark who were a part of the 2019 celebration in Appleton this coming week. That’s because right-hander Zach Mort is now a member of the Brewers organization. Mort, who was a 7th-round pick of the Cubs in 2018, pitched against South Bend three times in 2021, with two of those appearances happening at Four Winds Field. So far in 2022 back in High-A, Mort has posted a 2.40 ERA in six outings out of the bullpen. Batters are hitting just .167 off of him, and the reunion against the Cubs will be an interesting storyline. Mort pitched in one playoff game in 2019, and relieved Major Leaguer Kendall Graveman in Game 1 of the Midwest League Championship Series. He tossed three scoreless innings to help lead the Cubs to a win.
Cam Robinson, RHP: Like the South Bend Cubs have with Jeremiah Estrada, Hunter Bigge and Brad Deppermann, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers possess multiple pitchers who can be effective late in ballgames at picking up saves. On Wisconsin, however, nobody has been better this season than righty Cam Robinson. With a 1.69 ERA in 11 appearances, plus seven saves out of eight attempts, Robinson in the 9th inning has posted close to perfection. Opposing hitters are batting just .115 against him, but walks have been an issue with 12 free passes in 16 innings pitched. Still, Robinson has been able to work around those walks to hang some dynamite numbers in his stat profile. If the Cubs can dominate through games just as they did on the last homestand, they won’t have to worry about facing Robinson if they’re down late in any of the six games.
Players to watch on South Bend…
Matt Mervis, 1B: How can you not start South Bend’s list with the newest Midwest League Player of the Week? Mervis has his best stretch of the season yet over the last 12 games at Four Winds Field as he decisively earned the well-deserved league honor. As the Cubs won 11 of 12 at home, Mervis was one of the driving forces by hitting .415 on the homestand with four homers and 13 RBI to begin the month of May. “Merv” also had a 13-game hitting streak rolling along until the final game versus the Peoria Chiefs brought it to an end. You can’t keep a hot bat for long though, as he now has another five-game hitting streak after the series versus Fort Wayne. Two of his four homers also game in one game. A multi-homer day last Tuesday against the TinCaps included quite the exclamation point, as he hammered a walk-off home run to lead yet another Cubs comeback. Lance Rymel has an easy choice nearly everyday to slot Mervis in as his everyday clean-up man.
Yohendrick Pinango, OF: When you go three consecutive at-bats with a home run, there’s a high chance that you’ll be placed on the Toyota Road Report watch list. Pinango’s homestand showed once again why he is a Chicago Cubs top-20 prospect. In the Fort Wayne series specifically, Pinango got off to a bit of a rocky start by going 0/8 in the first two games. But after that, every at-bat became must see. In a postgame interview on the field on Saturday, Pinango credited his pre-work before games as to why he saw so much success this past week. That work was done with Chicago Cubs Assistant Hitting Coordinator, Tom Beyers. During the six games against the TinCaps, Beyers arrived and immediately made an impact in the swings of South Bend hitters, specifically Pinango. And it worked. In the last three games of the weekend, Pinango went a combined 6/16 with three homers and eight RBI. The three straight round trippers came from the 6th and 7th innings on Friday, and the 1st inning on Saturday.
Brad Deppermann, RHP: A big reason of why the Cubs saw success these last two weeks is because of the steadiness that the bullpen has provided on the mound. Many guys such as Jeremiah Estrada, Hunter Bigge, Bailey Horn, and Bailey Reid saw success on the homestand. But Brad Deppermann’s work is extremely intriguing. Deppermann, who went 17 days without pitching from April 26, worked in two games against the TinCaps on Friday and Saturday. And he was lights out. “Depp” went a combined 2.1 innings of hitless and shutout baseball. He also did not walk a batter or give up a baserunner of any kind. He also added three strikeouts. Now on the season, five of his six appearances out of the pen has been of the scoreless variety. Deppermann’s stuff is powerful, and he showed that twice in three days battling Fort Wayne. The level of talent in the back-end of the Cubs pen is exactly what any team needs when vouching for a playoff spot.
Tuesday, May 17 - 7:40 PM ET: RHP Manuel Espinoza vs. LHP Antoine Kelly
Wednesday, May 18 - 1:10 PM ET: RHP Daniel Palencia vs. RHP Ryne Moore
Thursday, May 19 - 7:40 PM ET: LHP Jordan Wicks vs. RHP Justin Jarvis
Friday, May 20 - 7:40 PM ET: LHP DJ Herz vs. LHP Russell Smith
Saturday, May 21 - 2:10 PM ET: RHP Kohl Franklin vs. LHP Brandon Knarr
Sunday, May 22 - 2:10 PM ET: RHP Manuel Espinoza vs LHP Antoine Kelly
Catch the entire six-game series in Wisconsin on Sports Radio 960 AM WSBT, online at wsbtradio.com, or on MiLB.com with Max Thoma on the call.