Despite a sixth straight loss Wednesday night in a 4-1 final to the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, a couple pieces of the future were on display and happy about it.
Rookie right-hander Dallas Beeler (0-2) held the Reds to two hits and a run through four innings in his second major league start before taking his second loss.
Arismendy Alcantara, a 22-year-old second baseman/outfielder was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first major league game, but he made several plays in the field, including a relay throw to nab a runner at third base. He said he was never nervous.
"It’s a whole bunch of fun," Beeler said. "It was nice having Kyle come up here. I didn’t know Arismendy was even coming up until I saw him today. It’s a lot of fun and it’s going to be the same for Kyle tomorrow. He’s going to have a great time. The results weren’t what I wanted tonight, but I still had a great time pitching. It’s a lot of fun to watch, too."
A three-run fifth inning ended Beeler’s second start. He allowed four earned runs, six hits, walked four in five innings and did not record a strikeout.
"I just got some ground balls that got through the holes," Beeler said. "I felt like I had good control tonight. I got behind in some counts, and you can’t get behind on some of these guys. Some things didn’t go my way, and I have to make better pitches in some situations, too.
"I can’t get behind the first two pitches, especially the second and third time through [the batting order] because then I’m throwing all fastballs. So just cut down the walks and everything."
Still, the Cubs were in the game.
"I don’t know if he felt his command was where he wanted it to be," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He settled down, I thought, a little bit. He started moving the ball in the third or fourth inning, I think. He kept us in the ballgame, quite frankly."
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park. It was the fifth straight win for the Reds and the sixth straight loss for the Cubs.
Here’s a quick look at the game:
How it happened: The Reds finally got to Cubs starter Dallas Beeler for three runs with two outs in the bottom of the fifth to break a 1-1 tie. Billy Hamilton had the go-ahead hit for the Reds with a two-out triple past center fielder Justin Ruggiano to drive in Zack Cozart from second base. Cozart had lofted a single into right-center, just out of the reach of second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, and moved to second on a sacrifice by pitcher Alfredo Simon.
Skip Schumaker followed Hamilton’s triple with a walk and Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce each singled in a run to cap a three-run inning. The Reds took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when third baseman Ramon Santiago belted a two-out double into the gap in right-center to plate first baseman Brayan Pena from first base. Santiago was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple. Pena drew a two-out walk ahead of Santiago. Anthony Rizzo tied it in the third with his 20th home run of the season, a towering shot down the line in right on a 2-0 pitch. But Chicago never got another runner as far as second base.
What it means: The Cubs have followed a four-game winning streak with what is now a six-game losing streak and four games to go before the All-Star break.
Beeler’s night: Beeler, a rookie right-hander, held the Reds to two hits and a run through four innings, but a three-run fifth inning ended his second major league start. Beeler allowed four earned runs, six hits and walked four in five innings and did not record a strikeout.
Beeler (0-2) made his major league debut June 28 and allowed four hits and an earned run in a 3-0 loss to the Washington Nationals. He gave up four hits and struck out six.
Alcantara’s debut: Hot prospect Alcantara was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first major league game. The 22-year-old infielder/outfielder, who hits from both sides of the plate, started at second base and hit in the No. 2 spot in the batting order Wednesday. The Cubs promoted him to take the spot of veteran Darwin Barney, who is on the paternity list.
Alcantara has hit .307 with 10 homers, 11 triples, 25 doubles and 62 runs in 89 games for Triple-A Iowa this season. He boasts an .890 OPS with 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts at Triple-A.
Renteria tossed: Cubs manager Rick Renteria was thrown out of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning by third-base umpire Andy Fletcher for arguing a foul-ball call. It was Renteria’s fifth ejection of the season.
Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco’s tapper down the third-base line with two outs, two on and three runs already in was just foul. Third baseman Luis Valbuena fielded the grounder and tagged third, but Fletcher called the ball foul.
The play was not reviewable.
Mesoraco grounded out to Valbuena moments later to end the inning.
Stat of the night: Simon (12-3) retired 13 straight Cubs after Rizzo’s game-tying home run in the third. Simon struck out eight in 6.2 innings, allowing four hits, two walks and one earned run.
What’s next: The Cubs wrap up the five-game series in Cincinnati at 11:35 a.m. CT, hoping to avoid a sweep. Kyle Hendricks will make his major league debut for Chicago, and Homer Bailey (8-5, 4.15 ERA) will take the hill for the Reds.
The Cubs return home for a three-game series leading into the All-Star break beginning Friday.
CINCINNATI -- Alfredo Simon became the NL's first 12-game winner and Billy Hamilton added to his sensational series with a tiebreaking triple Wednesday night, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-1 victory over the trade-depleted Chicago Cubs.
The Reds won their fifth in a row -- matching their season high -- and moved a season-best seven games over .500. After winning the first four games of the series, they'll try for their first five-game sweep since 1976 on Thursday.
Simon (12-3), left off the All-Star team, became the first Reds pitcher to win a dozen games before the break since Edinson Volquez also went 12-3 in the first half of 2008. The reliever-turner-starter gave up four hits in 6 2/3 innings, including Anthony Rizzo's third homer in four games.
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Alcantara, a 22-year-old infielder/outfielder who hits from both sides of the plate, will start at second base and hit in the No. 2 spot in the batting order Wednesday night in the fourth of five games in Cincinnati.
“A switch-hitting hitter that’s been doing really, really well,” Renteria said of Alcantara. “If it seems like it might be a little overwhelming, maybe we’ll make an adjustment (in the order) tomorrow. But there’s nothing wrong with us allowing him an opportunity to be seen in what might be kind of a slot he might be able to fit in as a switch hitter.”
Alcantara has hit .307 with 10 homers, 11 triples, 25 doubles and 62 runs in 89 games for Triple-A Iowa this season. He boasts an .890 OPS with 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts.
“He’s been hitting for power from both sides of the plate,” Renteria said. “He’s been hitting for extra bases, hitting well in terms of average, stealing bases. He’s played some center as well as second. He’s been doing a very nice job.”
The Cubs promoted Alcantara to take the spot of veteran Darwin Barney, who is on the paternity list.
And while Alcantara is up with the big club, even if it's for a short time, he’s going to play.
“He’s going to be here a couple days and he should be in there,” Renteria said. “He’s one of our young prospects and he’ll get a couple of days of playing time. Hopefully he’s able to just enjoy it and be himself. He’s been doing very, very well this season and hopefully he feels comfortable with his teammates here.”
Alcantara was not the only young Cub in the lineup. Right-hander Dallas Beeler, 25, was making his second career start Wednesday night. Beeler made his major league debut in June and allowed four hits and an earned run in a 3-0 loss to Washington. He gave up four hits and struck out six.
“He’ll start for us tonight and then we’ll have that conversation as to how he’s going to proceed,” Renteria said. “But I’m glad to have him here. He did a nice job for us the last time. He looks good, and again, these guys are coming in and they have a very calm presence about them.”
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will make his major league debut Thursday against the Reds, becoming the third Cubs pitcher to make his big league debut in the last 13 days. Hendricks will follow Beeler (June 28) and Tsuyoshi Wada (Tuesday) in making his debut.
The 24-year-old is 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 16 Triple-A starts this season after being named the Cubs' minor league pitcher of the year last season.
Alcantara, Beeler, and Hendricks are part of a growing youth movement expected to lift the last-place Cubs in the coming years.
“We as an organization have to make sure that when any time you give opportunities to young guys that do get a look that they’re ready to be given that opportunity,” Renteria said.
OMAHA, Neb. -- The march of major league debuts continues as Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks takes the mound Thursday in their series finale against the Cincinnati Reds.
"I still don't think it's hit me, 100 percent," Hendricks said before leaving Triple-A Iowa for Ohio. "This is what you work for your entire life. It's finally here. When I step foot on that mound, and throw that first pitch, it might hit me a little. But it's the same game. Sixty feet, 6 inches. Hopefully I'll keep my emotions in check."
This year Hendricks is 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA and claims he's been improving since making some pregame changes.
"I went through a stretch of 3-4 starts where I would go into the game where I wasn't 100 percent aggressive right out of the gate," Hendricks said. "I wasn't throwing my best stuff in the first inning, and I was giving up some runs early. It was hurting me because I was putting up zeros later in the game. But you can lose the game in the first inning."
So Hendricks and Iowa pitching coach Bruce Walton changed the pregame routine and made it more "intense" at the end of warm-ups. The result has been wins in his last four full starts -- he was pulled after two innings on Sunday in advance of Thursday's debut -- and he's given up more than two runs in just one of them.
"He's ready," Walton said. "I told him not to overthink things. Just go out and pitch. So far our guys have been able to do that."
Walton is like a proud father as three of his pitchers -- Dallas Beeler, Tsuyoshi Wada and now Hendricks -- have made their major league debuts over the past couple of weeks and so far they've thrown well. Now it's Hendricks' turn.
"When you do struggle you want to overanalyze," Hendricks said. "That's a natural thing to do. It's the same game. Your heart will be beating a little faster. As long as you keep the ball down you can get major league hitters out."
Overanalyzing can be an issue for the Dartmouth graduate but Walton is quick to point out he'd rather work with someone who overanalyzes than the opposite. But sometimes baseball needs to be simple and Hendricks realizes that.
"It's definitely easier said than done," he said.
The instruction from above is to keep the ball down. Hendricks isn't overpowering -- some compare his style to Greg Maddux simply for that reason -- and he can paint the corners. The question is if a pitcher who knows how to pitch but only hits 91-92 mph on the radar gun can make it these days. The Cubs are banking that Hendricks is one who can.
Confidence is a big deal and when teammate Beeler threw six solid innings in his debut a few weeks ago, the entire Triple-A staff took notice.
"That was so much motivation and gave everyone down here so much confidence to see one of our teammates go up there and pitch great," Hendricks said. "My mind is racing. I threw a light bullpen [Tuesday] to get ready. Just have to get some rest."
Iowa manager Marty Pevey recalled Beeler's last bullpen session before heading to Wrigley Field for his first start. He was so amped up, Pevey had him put down his glove and run until he got it out of his system. Hendricks didn't need that but knows the feeling. He hopes he can achieve come calmness before taking the field on Thursday where most of his extended family will be with him in Cincinnati.
"I saw [Joey] Votto go on the disabled list so that's not bad," Hendricks joked. "I've been keeping track a little bit."
Coming up with the Boston Red Sox, he saw greats such as Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre go about their business. He also played alongside Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo when he was with the Cubs earlier this season.
"He's one of my favorites I've ever come across," Kalish said Wednesday morning before the Iowa Cubs played the Omaha Storm Chasers. "He can do it all."
"Doing it all" is the phrase you hear often from people who have watched or played with Alcantara. He's the first of the position player prospects to get the call, albeit for only two days. The Cubs made it clear that he'll be coming back to Triple-A, but at least fans will get a glimpse of the future. The Cubs have started the transition everyone has been waiting for.
"He's been going in the right direction for some time now," VP of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod said. "He's earned a chance."
Alcantara has put up a fantasy player's dream season so far in Iowa. He's hitting .307 with 10 home runs, 41 RBIs, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 21 stolen bases and a .353 on-base percentage. Since moving to the leadoff spot 35 games ago he's been even better, batting .348 with a .401 on-base percentage. Some have compared him to Emilio Bonifacio as he can hit from both sides of the plate and play both the infield and outfield.
"I describe him as a Jose Reyes-type," Kalish said. "He's got all the tools. The power, the speed, the arm. Fans should know he has an unbelievable head on his shoulders."
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Alcantara doesn't look the part of a guy who can drive the ball, but he says since going to Triple-A he's had a better time finding the outfield gaps.
"These parks are bigger (than Double-A) and better for my game," Alcantara said before leaving for Cincinnati to join the Cubs for Wednesday's game against the Reds.
The numbers prove that out. He had 55 extra-base hits in 571 at-bats at Double-A Tennessee in 2013 and he already has 46 this season in 366 at-bats. The big parks in the majors might play to his style as well.
"He has gap power and raw speed," Kalish said. "When he has a clean double he just glides into second. When he's going for a triple, watch out. He turns it on."
Fans will only get a taste of his talent for two days until Barney returns. But that doesn't mean he can't come back to the big club someday soon. Trading season is upon us and the Cubs could move any one of the following players: Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena and Bonifacio, if he's healthy.
That opens a spot for Alcantara, who has played 11 games in centerfield, 70 at second base and six at shortstop this season. Or the Cubs could decide to send down Junior Lake or Mike Olt if their struggles continue, or perhaps Alcantara finds his way to Wrigley Field by the time rosters expand in September.
One thing is for sure, Alcantara is going to get his chance. As for next season, if things go well he could be the Cubs Opening Day second baseman or centerfielder, or maybe somewhere else. The Cubs don't know how it's going to play out, they just know he's a talent.
"The season he's had here is insane," Kalish said. "The guy can play."
The future is finally here. At least for two days.
The two groups:
Contenders: Brewers, Dodgers, Nationals, Braves, Giants, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates.
The bad teams: Diamondbacks, Rockies, Cubs, Phillies, Padres, Mets.
That leaves only the Marlins in the mediocrity of the middle.
Some of those bad teams are likely to get worse. The Cubs just traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Diamondbacks lost Bronson Arroyo and traded Brandon McCarthy. The Rockies' pitching staff has been decimated with injuries. The Phillies are some form of unwatchable wretchedness right now.
All this means the remaining schedule for the playoff contenders could play a vital role in who wins the divisions and who wins the wild cards. So let's see how many games each of the contenders has remaining against our six bad teams.
Nationals (33) -- Mets (13), Phillies (13), Rockies (3), Padres (4).
Braves (27) -- Mets (8), Phillies (9), Cubs (3), Padres (7). They also have three against AL weakling Texas.
Brewers (19) -- Mets (4), Phillies (2), Cubs (10), Padres (3).
Cardinals (26) -- Phillies (3), Cubs (10), Padres (7), Rockies (3), Diamondbacks (3).
Reds (18) -- Mets (3), Cubs (8), Rockies (4), Diamondbacks (3).
Pirates (23) -- Phillies (4), Cubs (6), Padres (3), Rockies (6), Diamondbacks (4).
Dodgers (31) -- Cubs (7), Padres (13), Rockies (6), Diamondbacks (5).
Giants (37) -- Mets (4), Phillies (7), Cubs (3), Padres (7), Rockies (7), Diamondbacks (9).
Strength of schedule can be overrated, but you can clearly see the potential ramifications here. With four good teams, the NL Central teams have much tougher remaining schedules than the Nationals/Braves and Dodgers/Giants. The NL Central teams may beat up on each other, opening the door for the two wild cards to come from the NL East and NL West.
Digging deeper into the NL Central, here's how many games each has remaining against the other three contenders:
Brewers (28) -- Cardinals (13), Reds (9), Pirates (6).
Cardinals (31) -- Brewers (13), Reds (10), Pirates (8).
Reds (28) -- Brewers (9), Cardinals (10), Pirates (9).
Pirates (23) -- Brewers (6), Cardinals (8), Reds (9).
Something tells me those 13 remaining Brewers-Cardinals games will go a long ways towards deciding the division title.
Alcantara has been a rising prospect in the Cubs' system over the past two seasons but really came into his own this year. After Tuesday's leadoff double against Omaha, Alcantara has 46 extra-base hits this season, including 10 home runs, 11 triples and 25 doubles. He's hitting .307 after going 1-for-4 on Tuesday.
"It's one of my dreams," Alcantara said. "Just going to keep focused and do my job."
Alcantara, 22, was signed as an international free agent in 2008 as a shortstop but moved to second base when he and Javier Baez teamed up at Double-A last season. To further help his cause, he has played 11 games in center field this year, including Tuesday night's game. After the Iowa Cubs lost 7-6, in a game that featured several ejections, Alcantara was told he was going to Cincinnati to join the Cubs for games there on Wednesday and Thursday.
"They called me into the office and I didn't know what was going on after that crazy game," Alcantara said. "They said, 'Congratulations, you're getting called up.'
"I'll take it easy and just play my game and see what happens."
The Cubs have already told him it's only for two days, until Barney's paternity leave is over. The Cubs return to Chicago for their final series before the All-Star break starting Friday. Until then, Alcantara is a big leaguer. Then he'll play in the Triple-A All-Star game next week.
"I feel great," he said. "I feel excited. It's all players' dreams to play in the big leagues."
Bryant seemed to take issue with a called strike one, eventually striking out swinging. As he started to walk back toward the dugout, home plate umpire Chris Gonzalez threw him out of the game.
After the game, Bryant confirmed he said, “That’s on you” to the umpire before being ejected.
“I didn’t feel like I said anything to warrant that,” Bryant said. “I’m sure there were a couple pitches I could have hit to not get to that point. It was a heat-of-the-moment thing. It happens.”
Iowa manager Marty Pevey also was thrown out in coming to Bryant’s defense. At first he didn’t know that Bryant had been ejected, but as his player walked off the field, he went ballistic.
Pevey and Gonzalez went face-to-face for their argument before both Pevey and Bryant walked to the Cubs clubhouse down the left-field line.
“It was very G-rated, what he said,” Pevey said.
It was Bryant’s first professional ejection. The I-Cubs lost 7-6.
CINCINNATI -- Jay Bruce homered in the opener, and then helped the Cincinnati Reds pull off their biggest comeback of the season for a doubleheader sweep on Tuesday, 4-2 and 6-5 over the Chicago Cubs.
The Reds overcame a 5-0 deficit in the second game, sending Chicago to its fifth straight loss.
Bruce doubled home the tying run in the eighth. Billy Hamilton singled in the ninth off Hector Rondon (1-3) for the Reds' first doubleheader sweep since 2009 against Pittsburgh. Logan Ondrusek (3-2) pitched two innings.
The Cubs have been swept in all three of their doubleheaders this season.
In the opener, Bruce returned to right field and hit another two-run homer, connecting off Travis Wood (7-7) during a three-run first inning.
The third baseman is focused on two things: crushing baseballs and getting better as a defender.
“I guess it’s gone better than expected, I would say, but there are always times in the season where I felt like I could have done better,” Bryant said before Triple-A Iowa played Omaha on Tuesday. “Granted, the year I’m having so far is pretty good, but I’m just thinking back to times where there’s a runner on third, less than two outs and could have got him in. But that’s baseball. You can’t do it every time, but I just want to keep getting better.”
Bryant was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A last month, putting him one step away from the big leagues. He has to master one last level before being ready.
“Double-A off-speed stuff stays in the zone more often,” Bryant said. “Here, it goes in and out. You have to go up there with a little more focus and try and lay off those pitches. Sometimes you can’t.”
Bryant hasn’t been successful every time at the plate -- it just seems like it. Between Double-A and Triple-A, he has gone two consecutive games without a hit just once all season. He hit .355 in 248 at-bats with 22 home runs for Tennessee, and he’s hitting .356 in 73 at-bats with eight home runs for Iowa heading into Tuesday’s contest. He has been a model of consistency in his first full year as a pro.
“He’s raised everybody’s level of play,” Iowa manager Marty Pevey said. “He’s been great.”
The Iowa Cubs are 13-7 since Bryant’s arrival, moving into first place in the Pacific Coast League’s American North Division. He’s a difference- maker, but his game isn’t all polished. His defense at third base needs some work before the inevitable call to the big leagues comes. That is if he stays at third base, a topic of much debate among fans.
“I definitely think it’s a challenge to stay at third base,” Bryant said. “I want to show people I can play there. Obviously, making silly errors isn’t going to help me.”
Bryant was referring to a ball that went through his legs in Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Omaha Storm Chasers. His play might have been the difference in the game, as four unearned runs scored after the miscue. It was his third error for Iowa and 17th this season overall.