Smith Powers Great Falls In Pioneer Championship Series Opener

Smith Powers Great Falls In Pioneer Championship Series Opener

Tuesday Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 11:25 p.m.

WHITE SOXGreat Falls Rookie
Kevan Smith was the hottest player in the Pioneer League before a sore wrist sidelined him as the regular season drew to a close. There was some question as to how effective the catcher from Pittsburgh would be once the post-season began but Smith has been answering those questions with ease and Tuesday night was just the latest example.

Smith had a monstrous night as Great Falls squirted by Ogden in the opening game of the Pioneer League finals, 9-7, at Lindquist Field. The series shifts to Centene Stadium on Thursday for Game Two and, if necessary, Game Three on Friday.

If Smith has another night like the one he had Tuesday then the Voyagers will make short work of the Raptors. Smith had four hits, including a homer, and four RBIs. His RBI single in the seventh snapped what had been a 7-7 tie. Smith also had a three-run homer in the fourth and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Marty Medina hit the second of his two solo homers in the eighth to pad the Voyager lead. Mike Earley had a homer and drove in two as well.

Stew Brase picked up the win despite allowing a pair of runs on four hits over three innings of relief. Scott Snodgress started and allowed five runs on seven hits over three innings. The Voyagers have Pioneer League pitcher of the year Blair Walters 9-0 starting Game Two. Walters pitched 5 23 innings of shutout ball in defeating Missoula in the opening round.

Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

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Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

The Cubs look to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11 a.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (2-1, 1.83) vs. Juan Nicasio (3-2, 3.33)

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

Erik Johnson gets the first chance at the No. 5 spot in the White Sox rotation, but the situation is hardly finalized.

The White Sox announced Tuesday that they would promote Johnson from Triple-A Charlotte in time to make Thursday’s start in place of John Danks, whom they will officially designated for assignment later this week. But just because Johnson gets the first start doesn’t mean he’s here for good, general manager Rick Hahn said.

Hahn and the White Sox have made it clear they want better production from the fifth spot, whether it's from an internal or an external option.

“It’s going to be a bit of a fluid situation,” Hahn said.

Hahn is comfortable with the team’s internal options at Charlotte beyond Johnson.

Miguel Gonzalez, who started last Monday in Toronto, has a solid major league track record. Then there’s Jacob Turner, who has 27 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings with a 3.04 ERA in five starts.

But Hahn also said the White Sox wouldn’t shy away from looking outside the farm system, either. Hahn declined to answer whether or not the White Sox would watch Tim Lincecum’s tryout Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz. before he noted the club has “scouts everywhere.”

The White Sox could also try and use their internal options to get by for several months before adding another pitcher ahead of the trade deadline.

No matter whom they turn to, the expectation is better results than the White Sox received from Danks, who was 0-4 with a 7.25 ER in four starts.

“Obviously, Erik starts on Thursday,” Hahn said. “After that, we may well make another move next week as we try to accomplish two things with that spot -- first and foremost, get greater production than we’ve been receiving thus far this year.”

“We do have a few internal options.

“If it does get to the point where we’re better off going outside the organization, obviously we’ve never been shy about doing that.”

The Cubs Way could become bludgeoning your opponent with AL East-style lineup

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The Cubs Way could become bludgeoning your opponent with AL East-style lineup

PITTSBURGH – Beating Gerrit Cole in last year’s National League wild-card game became a landmark victory for The Plan. A young Cubs lineup didn’t panic or play tight and you have to wonder what the Pittsburgh Pirates are thinking right now. Because this looks like a vastly superior version of the team that won 97 games and silenced the blackout crowd at PNC Park.

The Cubs didn’t even need a superhuman effort from Jake Arrieta, who walked the first two Pirates he faced on Tuesday night before throwing seven scoreless innings and cruising to a 7-1 victory in front of a half-empty stadium.

While the Cubs (19-6) have used a pitching-and-defense formula to create the best record in baseball – and what they hope will be a better blueprint for October – this offense still isn’t close to clicking on all cylinders yet.

Not that Pittsburgh’s Jonathon Niese – who couldn’t crack the playoff rotation for the New York Mets last year – would notice after giving up six runs, nine hits and five walks across five innings in a drama-free game that didn’t create more fireworks in a rivalry that’s heating up.

But the difference is dramatic enough that Cubs manager Joe Maddon keeps having flashbacks to his time with the Tampa Bay Rays and trying to take down the superpowers in Boston and New York.

“Right now, you’re seeing a group of guys playing the game today who have one thought – and that is to wear this pitcher down collectively,” Maddon said. “You’ve seen it in the past – I saw it in the early 2000s with the Red Sox and the Yankees in the American League East – they would definitely wear you down. They would get in your ‘pen, and then they'd bludgeon you at that point.”

Getting into the bullpen doesn’t exactly mean batting practice in an age of specialization, information overload and multiple options approaching triple-digit velocity. But this is a snapshot of the Cubs entering Tuesday: Ranked second in the majors in runs scored (146) and on-base percentage (.361) while leading everyone in walks (129) and dropping to 24th in strikeouts (188).

Even with Kyle Schwarber recovering from knee surgery, Miguel Montero resting his back on the disabled list and Jason Heyward (zero homers, .573 OPS) getting treatment for a sore wrist.

“We want to hit strikes,” said catcher David Ross, who won a World Series ring with the 2013 Red Sox. “We’re not out there taking pitches (just to take them). Guys are looking for their pitch.

“I see maturity in the approach from a young, talented group, which is completely different than Boston, which was more of an established veteran group that had been around the block. (But) I’m seeing that kind of approach with this group.”

Among all qualified NL hitters, five Cubs ranked between 14th and 50th in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance: Dexter Fowler (4.20); Addison Russell (4.12); Heyward (3.98); Anthony Rizzo (3.96); and Ben Zobrist (3.85).

“A lot of times when you see a positive jump in moments like that, it’s probably because of new personnel,” Maddon said. “I’ve always talked about: If you want walks, buy walks. If you want less strikeouts, buy less strikeouts.

“I also think about the maturity. Addison is a classic example of a guy that’s really matured in regards to not expanding the strike zone. Even ‘Javy’ (Javier Baez) has definitely shown a different attitude at the plate. For the most part, (Jorge) Soler is not chasing like he did for a period of time last year. So it’s the maturation of the hitter plus the acquisitions definitely help.

“You talk philosophy or theory with groups and everybody listens. But do they really hear what you’re saying?

“You have to get a buy-in from everybody. (And) these guys all believe that’s the right way to do things."

That’s becoming The Cubs Way.