In a twin bill that kicked off an eight-game homestand, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (34-46) split the two games with the Iowa Cubs (41-37), losing the first game, 7-3, and edging the I-Cubs in the second, 7-6, Thursday evening.
The Sky Sox opened up the series in front of 8,658 spectators — the second largest June crowd in franchise history — and fans in attendance got a chance to see former All-Star and World Series MVP Manny Ramirez make his season debut with the I-Cubs, along with upcoming hot-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant, who was recently promoted to Triple-A.
In the first matchup, RHP Juan Nicasio (1-1) made his second start with the Sky Sox since being optioned down and started off sharp facing the minimum over the first three innings, before Iowa tacked on two runs in each the fourth, fifth and sixth innings off Nicasio, including RBI-doubles from Ryan Kalish and Chris Valaika in the fourth.
Rafael Ynoa, Ben Paulsen and Tim Smalling provided the offense for the Sox in the first game. Ynoa racked up his 11th multi-hit game in June with a double and a triple, while Paulsen hit safely in all four at-bats, picking up a pair of singles and doubles, and tacked on his 50th RBI of the season. The four-hit game was the third by a Sky Sox player this season (Ynoa, Michael McKenry). Smalling only had one hit on the game, but made the most of it launching a home run to left-center to give the Sky Sox their first two runs.
Arismendy Alcantara also homered in the game, a seventh-inning shot to right, for his second hit of the game. He also had two RBI.
Kyle Hendricks (9-5) picked up the win by tossing six innings and allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out four and walking two.
The second game saw the debut of Ramirez, though he went hitless with two strikeouts, and saw the entire starting Sky Sox lineup get a hit with the exception of Jackson Williams, who had two walks and a hit-by-pitch in four plate appearances instead.
Iowa got on the board first with two runs in the top frame thanks to a double from SS Javy Baez, who finished the game with three hits (two doubles), two runs and an RBI.
However, the Sky Sox answered right back with three runs in the bottom of the first, and two more in each the second and third innings, which was just enough to edge the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
Wilton Lopez made the spot start for the Sky Sox, which was also his first start since 2009, when he was with the Houston Astros. Though he didn’t qualify for the win, Lopez had a quality start, allowing just one earned run on five hits in two and two-thirds innings of work, while striking out four against no walks.
Brooks Brown (1-0) picked up the win, while Chad Bettis picked up his third save of the season — the first three inning save at home since May 29th, 2011 when Bruce Billings picked up the save. Bettis tossed three innings, allowing just one run on three hits, while striking out four and walking one.
Providing offense in the second game was Kyle Parker, who hit a two-run home run for his ninth of the season. Evan Frey also added a triple and a sacrifice fly to help the Sky Sox.
For the entire doubleheader, Ynoa went 3-for-7 with three extra-base hits, three runs, and a walk. But Paulsen managed to go every plate appearance, with the exception of one, without recording an out. He went 5-for-6 with two doubles, two RBI, and two walks.
For the I-Cubs, Baez went 4-for-8 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI.
The Sky Sox and the I-Cubs will play again at 7:05 p.m. Friday when LHP Pedro Hernandez (5-3, 6.12 ERA) and LHP Chris Rusin (4-10, 4.14 ERA) take the mounds for their respective teams.