Rizzo homers twice as Hendricks gets first win
First baseman sets career high with 25; righty goes seven scoreless
CHICAGO -- Cubs fans haven't had much to get excited about this season, but Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, and Arismendy Alcantara gave them a glimpse on Tuesday night of what could be a very bright future.
Rizzo took over the National League home run lead, hitting his 24th and 25th, and Alcantara smacked his second homer to help Hendricks pick up his first Major League win and lead the Cubs to a 6-0 victory over the Padres at Wrigley Field.
"I think right now, we're just trying to win, trying to play good baseball," Hendricks said, trying to downplay the impact of the young players. "I just got up here and I'm trying to do what I can to help the team at this point."
After the game, the Cubs announced two of their other top prospects, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora, would also be promoted, although they will go to Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee, respectively. It's a sign of things to come. Soler and Almora are part of the so-called "core four" impact players the team is counting on.
"We're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "'Mendy' coming up is helpful. The way Rizzo and [Starlin] Castro are playing is great. I think, in the not too distant future, [the prospects] will be out there."
Rizzo, 24, is one of the foundation pieces for the Cubs' development. He posted his seventh career multi-homer game and set a single-season high with his two blasts, topping the 23 he hit last season in 160 games. Tuesday was Rizzo's 97th game of the year.
"Riz has talent, he's maturing, he's getting his feet on the ground as a Major League player," Padres manager Bud Black said. "The Cubs gave him a long-term deal to maybe give him some security. And he's a guy with, obviously, big power, which we've known. In this ballpark with the wind blowing out, it shows."
Tuesday also was Hendricks' second big league start and first at Wrigley Field as the team tries to fill the vacancies created by the July 4 trade of starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
The Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, Hendricks was 10-5 in 17 starts at Triple-A Iowa. He did not get a decision on July 10 when he was called up for a spot start against the Reds. On Tuesday, he held the Padres to five hits over seven scoreless innings, striking out five.
The difference between the two outings?
"From the start, I just pounded the strike zone here," Hendricks said. "I did have one walk in the first inning but it wasn't a bad walk. I knew my sinker was working and I just tried to pound the strike zone."
His teammates celebrated by giving Hendricks the traditional postgame beer shower. His father, John, was in the crowd of 32,730 at Wrigley.
"It's definitely a day to remember," Hendricks said. "It's definitely the best day of my life. First Major League win, it's what you work for since you were a little kid playing T-ball. I really can't put it into words -- it's awesome."
Rizzo connected on his first homer of the game leading off the third, launching a curve from the Padres' Eric Stults nearly over the right-field bleachers.
Alcantara, who is on the Cubs' roster to stay after being promoted July 9, became the first player to hit a home run over the right-field bleachers and onto Sheffield Avenue this season with one out in the seventh. Not bad for someone listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds.
Rizzo, on the other hand, is 6-3, 240 pounds, and he followed Alcantara with his second home run, sending a 2-1 pitch from Blaine Boyer to left-center.
"He's got some strength and has great hands," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Alcantara. "You can see when he takes batting practice and he barrels a ball and gets through it, the ball seems to travel."
"I just tried to make contact," Alcantara said.
When Alcantara arrived at Wrigley Field, he was not aware that second baseman Darwin Barney had been designated for assignment.
"I can be more comfortable, I can play more easy, more relaxed in the field, enjoy the game more, and have fun in the game," Alcantara said.
Has he surprised people with his power?
"More or less," Alcantara said.
"He's got some torque in his bat," Rizzo said of Alcantara. "It was a smooth swing. It's nice. He comes to play -- told him to go play, don't worry about anything else. Do what you're doing here like you were in Triple-A."
What's impressed Renteria about Hendricks and Alcantara is that both youngsters have a "sense of calm."
"They aren't looking like they're too bothered by being at the Major League level, they're just playing the game," Renteria said. "They're simplifying it, they're keeping it between the lines, looking at it as just another opponent on the other side and trying to do what they can do with the skills they have."
That's all the Cubs want from the kids.