A six-run second inning along with another quality start by Chris Rusin propelled the Iowa Cubs (50-44) to a 7-4 victory over the Oklahoma City RedHawks (48-48) in the first game of a four-game series on Friday night at Principal Park. With the win, Iowa will remain at least .5 games ahead of the second place Omaha Storm Chasers in the PCL American North division, pending the outcome of Omaha’s game in Colorado Springs.
Rusin (7-10) struck out a season-high nine batters in his first start since being optioned back to Iowa from Chicago. Rusin tossed seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk, picking up the victory.
Iowa’s big second inning saw seven of the first eight batters reach against RedHawks starter Paul Clemens (4-1), the only out being recorded on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Szczur. Clemens walked Rafael Lopez to lead off the inning. Lopez came around to score when Chris Valaika blasted a 2-2 pitch from Clemens over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer, his ninth of the season, giving Iowa a 3-1 lead. After Josh Vitters was hit by a pitch, Brett Jackson walked and both runners advanced on Szczur’s sacrifice. Clemens intentionally walked Ryan Kalish to load the bases for Logan Watkins. Watkins cleared the bases with a three-run double to left and would come around to score when Javier Baez blasted a double to center, giving Iowa a 7-1 lead.
Watkins had the big offensive game for Iowa, going 2-for-3 with 3 RBI, two doubles, two runs scored, and a walk.
With his double in the second inning, Baez extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Baez has recorded a single hit in each of the 10 games. Baez also drove in two more runs on Friday and leads the team with 55 RBI.
Iowa and Oklahoma City play a split doubleheader on Saturday with seven inning games beginning at 1:05 and 7:05.
NOTES: Iowa’s offense will suffer a major hit over the next few days. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will be unavailable to the team over the weekend as both players will be headed to Minneapolis on Saturday to participate in the Futures Game on Sunday at Target Field.