Friday, July 11, 2014

Game of the Day (7/10/14)

Cubs 6, Reds 4 (12). Chicago sent Kyle Hendricks to the mound for his MLB debut, continuing its post-Samardzija-trade parade of pitchers who... well, let's just say they wouldn't have been in the rotation before the trade. Cincinnati countered with Homer Bailey.

Bailey plunked Anthony Rizzo in the first, but left him on. Hendricks got off to a far rougher start in the bottom of the inning. Chris Heisey and Skip Schumaker both walked to start off (with only one strike being thrown between the two plate appearances), and after a popup, Brayan Pena doubled and Ryan Ludwick and Ramon Santiago both singled, with each hit bringing in a run. Cozart grounded to third, with Ludwick getting thrown out at home on the play, and an intentional walk set up Bailey to foul out to end the inning.

Bailey was perfect in the second, and Hendricks matched him, apparently settling in for his second trip through a big league batting order. John Baker led off the third with a walk, and Hendricks bunted into a forceout; Chris Coghlan then doubled the pitcher to third, and Arismendy Alcantara's sac fly brought Hendricks in with the first run of his career. Ludwick counteracted that tally with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning, giving Cincinnati a 4-1 lead.

The starters were both spotless in the fourth, and the Cubs struck again in the top of the fifth. Baker was hit by a pitch with one out, and Hendricks bunted successfully this time, moving Baker to second. After Coghlan walked, Alcantara hit a two-run double to bring Chicago within a run. Hendricks retired the Reds in order once more in the fifth, and Bailey was pulled to begin the sixth, with Sam LeCure taking his place and working around a Ryan Sweeney single. Hendricks allowed a hit to Ludwick and plunked Cozart in the bottom of the sixth, but struck out the next two Reds (including pinch hitter Jay Bruce) to end the inning.

Manny Parra threw a 1-2-3 seventh, including a strikeout of Mike Olt, who was hitting for Hendricks. James Russell walked Todd Frazier in the bottom of the inning, but allowed nothing else. Alcantara led off the top of the eighth with a single against Jonathan Broxton. Rizzo grounded to first, and after stepping on the base, Pena made a throwing error that allowed Alcantara to take third, a position from which he then scored the tying run on Starlin Castro's single. Luis Valbuena hit into an inning-ending double play, and the Reds had a chance against Pedro Strop in the bottom of the inning when Cozart reached on a two-out Rizzo error, Tucker Barnhart singled, and Strop's wild pitch moved the go-ahead run to third, but after intentionally walking pinch hitter Devin Mesoraco, Strop struck out Heisey to leave the bases loaded.

Aroldis Chapman allowed only a Baker walk in the top of the ninth, and Neil Ramirez didn't even permit that much in the bottom of the inning, so the game moved into extras still tied at 4. With one out in the tenth, Alcantara tripled off of Jumbo Diaz. Rizzo was intentionally walked, Castro struck out, Valbuena walked to load the bases, and Justin Ruggiano popped up to end the threat. Hector Rondon relieved in the bottom of the inning and walked Santiago, then stranded him.

JJ Hoover relieved in the eleventh and countered a Baker single with a double play; Blake Parker was flawless in the bottom of the inning. Alcantara singled with one out in the twelfth, and with two away, Castro singled as well. Valbuena was up next, and his at bat would end the inning - but in the best way possible for the Cubs, as he hit the ball off of the right field wall to score both runners, and was thrown out trying for an inside-the-park homer. Frazier led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but Parker left him on to secure the win.

With the trade of the team's two best starters, the Cubs are clearly all about the young players for the rest of the year, and those guys came through in this one. Starlin Castro had two hits, a run, and an RBI, and Kyle Hendricks pitched six reasonable innings and struck out seven in his major league debut. But the obvious star of the day was Arismendy Alcantara, who amassed his first four hits (including a double and a triple), two runs, and three RBI. Every play on which the Cubs scored involved Alcantara in some way; his three RBI brought them back into the game, and he then scored both the tying and go-ahead runs. As a result, he ended up with +.538 WPA.

It may be quite some time before Arismendy Alcantara betters the second game of his major league career.

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