We learned a couple of lessons during the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Reds, the team's fifth straight defeat. It completed a Cincinnati doubleheader sweep, the third time in as many DH this year that the Cubs have been swept.
First lesson: the Cubs' callup starter from Triple-A was better than the Reds' callup starter from Triple-A.
Second lesson: even though the Cubs' bullpen has in general been much improved this year, it still has a way to go to be contender-quality.
The Cubs took a 5-0 lead in the nightcap on the strength of good pitching by Wada and home runs from Anthony Rizzo (his 19th), Mike Olt (No. 12) and Chris Coghlan. For Coghlan it was his second of the DH; the last Cub to homer in both ends of a DH was Alfonso Soriano September 15, 2007, and there's also this interesting tidbit:
Coghlan is 1st #Cubs to homer in both ends of DH in Cincinnati since Ron Santo did 6/20/65— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 9, 2014
That's all well and good. Wada started the game with something that he did a lot during spring training -- issued a walk. But he got out of it with a double play and looked like he would get out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the fifth until Junior Lake's relay throw to the infield after a short fly ball went off Rizzo's foot. The error went to Lake, but Rizzo really needs to catch that cutoff throw. As Jim Deshaies said on the telecast, it was a "cheap run," but it began the Reds' comeback that continued when, really, no one in the pen could retire Reds hitters. The blame has to be spread around to each and every reliever: Brian Schlitter, Wesley Wright, Carlos Villanueva, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, who couldn't hold the Reds down in the ninth. Rondon faced three hitters. All three of them singled, scoring the run that won the game for the Reds in a walkoff. All five relievers allowed a run.
Probably the worst of the bunch was Villanueva, who issued a pair of walks and gave up a triple to Billy Hamilton. The Cubs are currently carrying 10 relievers and three starters, as Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks will be called up the next two days to replace the traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in the rotation. So it would make sense for two relievers to go -- and I'm going to suggest one of them be Villanueva. His trade value is just about nil right now and there is a little over $2 million left on his contract. At this point, just DFA him; maybe someone will deal for him if the Cubs will eat the money, get an A-ball prospect. If not, then just let him go after the DFA period expires.
I'm assuming Chris Rusin will be sent back to Triple-A Iowa so that he can go back into Iowa's rotation; his turn there would probably come up Thursday. He could be optioned to make room for Beeler on the 25-man roster, since Beeler is already on the 40-man roster. However, Hendricks is not, so both a 25-man roster move and a 40-man roster move must be made to add him. That makes Villanueva the most likely cut, in my view.
Darwin Barney had three more hits and is now hitting .224. That doesn't sound like much, but it's his highest BA in almost a full calendar year, since July 22, 2013. This month Barney is 11-for-27 (.407) with two doubles and a triple. In any case, with his elite defense if Barney could hit even .240 or .250 -- something that appears in range -- he could be a valuable part of this team going forward. He's not likely going to be a starter once guys like Addison Russell and Javier Baez are promoted, but he could be a very useful utility infielder.
There's other news involving Barney:
#Cubs Barney taking paternity leave to be with wife for birth of 3rd child. Family is in Chicago— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 9, 2014
Alcantara will join #Cubs for Wed and Thu to cover for Barney who is on paternity leave— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 9, 2014
Congratulations to the Barney family on the new arrival, and for those of you who have been waiting for Arismendy Alcantara to make his big-league debut, he'll likely do so Wednesday or Thursday along with one of his Iowa teammates, either Beeler or Hendricks.
Speaking of which, Beeler will be facing Alfredo Simon in Wednesday evening's game, where the Cubs will try to break their losing streak. They're now 3-8 against the Reds this year and you don't want to hear the team's record against Cincinnati since 2010. Both of Russ La Croix' Heroes & Goats articles from the doubleheader will run later this morning.