SOUTH BEND, Ind. – An early run against a major league arm and a quality start by its own emerging ace was not enough for the Clinton LumberKings Wednesday night.
The LumberKings pushed across a tally in the first inning off South Bend starter Kendall Graveman – a right-hander with over 400 innings of experience in the big leagues – but played shaky defense behind Remey Reed to help the Cubs beat Clinton 3-1 in Game 1 of the Midwest League Championship Series at Four Winds Field.
Christopher Torres and Jose Devers hit back-to-back doubles to open the game, the latter plating Torres and pushing the LumberKings to a 1-0 advantage.
Graveman, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, last pitched in the majors in 2018 as a member of the Oakland Athletics. He only allowed one more hit and didn’t yield a run through the next 3 2/3 innings, where he turned the ball to Brandon Hughes.
In the second, South Bend’s Jake Slaughter hit a lead-off single and reached third after Torres’ throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt pinned Cubs on first and third base without an out. Nelson Velazquez hit a run-scoring groundout to knot the score 1-1.
From there, the teams traded four straight scoreless innings. Reed was sharp, lasting seven full frames, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits.
Zach Mort picked up the win on the mound for South Bend, pitching three innings of middle relief after entering in the fifth. He only allowed one hit and walked two batters during that span.
The Cubs again cashed in on an error for an insurance run in the eighth, as Maldonado reached second base on a lead-off throwing blunder by Torres. After a wild pitch by reliever Nathan Alexander pushed him to third, Maldonado came around to score on Clayton Daniel’s squeeze bunt play to take a 3-1 lead into the ninth.
Clinton had a scoring opportunity in the fifth, where JD Osborne drew a one-out walk and Bubba Hollins hit a single in the next at-bat. But Davis Bradshaw and Torres promptly fanned to end the threat.
In the ninth, the LumberKings again showed flashes of life, as Peyton Burdick reached on catcher’s interference and Evan Edwards hit a two-out single to bring up Osborne, whose powerful swing represented the go-ahead run.
The game took just two hours, 20 minutes to complete, as Clinton mustered five hits while the Cubs only had three, taking advantage of “small ball” and defensive woes to steal the series opener.
The teams will play Game 2 of the best-of-5 series Thursday night in South Bend. Clinton will turn to Jake Walters (7-4, 2.35 ERA) while the Cubs look to southpaw Faustino Carrera (8-7, 3.62).
First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m.