Angel Castro struck out Rafael Lopez with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to secure a 3-2 victory as the Memphis Redbirds (52-52) took game one of a five-game series over the Iowa Cubs (57-49) on Friday night at Principal Park.
Down 3-1 in the ninth, Iowa mounted a rally against Castro. With one out, Javier Baez ripped a double off the left field wall. Baez would score on the next play after Kris Bryant beat out a single to shortstop. Memphis shortstop Pete Kozma’s throwing error allowed Baez to score and Bryant ended up on third base after another throwing error, this time by first baseman Xavier Scruggs. Jorge Soler followed with a grounder to first but Bryant was cut down at home plate trying to score the tying run. Mike Olt singled to right, sending Soler to third. Josh Vitters followed with a walk to load the bases, leading to Lopez taking a called third strike to end the game.
Memphis posted three runs in the third off Iowa starter Chris Rusin. Shane Robinson put Memphis on the board with an RBI single and came around to score when Randal Grichuk blasted his 19th home run of the season to give the Redbirds a 3-0 lead.
Iowa cut the lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Baez hit a sacrifice fly to center field scoring Ryan Kalish who led off the inning with a bunt single. Baez went 1-for-3 with a double and one RBI and has hit safely in eight of nine games since the All-Star Break. Over those nine games, Baez is hitting .389 (14-for-36) with 3 HR and 12 RBI.
Rusin (7-11) had another quality start for Iowa in the loss, tossing eight innings, allowing eight hits and one walk while striking out four.
John Gast (3-2) picked up the win for Memphis, allowing one run on only two hits and two walks while striking out six Iowa batters. Castro picked up his first save of the season for the Redbirds.
Iowa and Memphis play a doubleheader on Saturday with both games scheduled for seven innings.