The final homestand of the season for the Iowa Cubs begins on Friday night at Principal Park when the Cubs (70-70) host the first place Oklahoma City RedHawks, triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The Cubs held at least a portion of first place the majority of the season but have suffered through a 10-16 stretch so far in August. Iowa currently sits in third place and will need some help to reach the playoffs.
The Cubs need to sweep the RedHawks (74-66) to have any chance. Oklahoma City currently leads the Cubs by four games with four to play. Should Iowa sweep, the teams would have identical 74-70 records but the Cubs would advance by taking the season-series between the two teams. Through 12 games so far this season, the teams have split with each team winning six games.
Iowa also needs help from the last place Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The Sky Sox (53-86) visit the second place Omaha Storm Chasers for a five-game series beginning Thursday night. Omaha (71-67) sits two games behind the RedHawks going in to Thursday’s game. If the Storm Chasers win three games in the series, Iowa would be eliminated despite having won the season-series 9-7. The RedHawks had a game washed out earlier this season and would advance because they would have a higher win percentage.
Iowa’s recent struggles coincided with the departure of many key players being called up to Chicago. Iowa’s offense has lost Javier Baez, Chris Valaika, Logan Watkins, Matt Szczur, and Jorge Soler to the Cubs. The pitching staff lost starters Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada who both had double-digits in wins before being promoted.
Recent injuries to Mike Olt, Josh Vitters, and Manny Ramirez have further depleted an offense which is now highly reliant on Kris Bryant to continue to rack up the offensive numbers that will likely win him Minor League Player of the Year.
Bryant is in a battle with Joey Gallo of the double-A Frisco RoughRiders for the minor league lead in home runs. Going into the final weekend of the season, Bryant’s 43 home runs give him a two home run advantage over Gallo.
Veteran lefty Chris Rusin (8-13 4.24) takes the hill for Iowa on Friday night against Nick Tropeano (9-5 3.12) for the RedHawks.