8/13/2014 12:42 A.M. ET
Rizzo's smarts show in 13-pitch at-bat
By Carrie Muskat and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke knows that his team is going to have to figure out some way to get Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo out. The problem, Roenicke says, is that Rizzo is becoming a smarter hitter.
"Rizzo, when we first saw him, he's a guy that we knew was dangerous," Roenicke said on Tuesday. "And we know the pitches that he's dangerous on, and if you stayed away from those pitches, you got him out.
"The guy has improved a lot in a short time. Now we go to some places where we used to get him out, and we didn't get him out. He's not chasing as many pitches out of the zone. So ... he becomes more dangerous."
And the Brewers know they have to face Rizzo and the National League Central-rival Cubs a lot. In the ninth inning of Monday's 3-1 loss, Rizzo went head to head against Francisco Rodriguez, and the two battled in a 13-pitch at-bat before Rizzo struck out. Rodriguez even threw a cutter, a pitch he admitted to never having thrown in a game.
"You get in an at-bat like that, and battle and battle and battle, and obviously, I didn't get the result I wanted, but I won that at-bat," Rizzo said. "[I'd say that if] it had been [Cubs catcher] John Baker pitching. To foul pitches off -- Frankie had some really good stuff. For me, personally, I'm just happy battling and getting my swing back to where it's good."
Rizzo struck out on the 13th pitch; in a perfect world, teams want pitchers to throw 12 to 15 pitches per inning.
"You always have to keep things in perspective -- who you're facing, what you're up against, what you have, how you're feeling, where the guys are at, and be realistic with that," hitting coach Bill Mueller said on Tuesday. "That's how I approach Riz. I'm realistic. I'm looking to the next at-bat, the next situation where you can have success, be positive and help your team. That's the approach."
And Roenicke? He'd rather not see Rizzo at the plate.
"This guy keeps getting better and better," Roenicke said. "It worries me. ... When you see a guy improve and do that kind of stuff ... This guy is going to be a really good player. He's a really good player now, but he's going to continue to get better."
Mueller takes Cubs' K's in stride
CHICAGO -- Hitting coach Bill Mueller wasn't even aware that the Cubs had struck out 44 times in three games against the Rays. All he knew was that Tampa Bay's pitching staff leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts, and did so even before the Interleague series against the Cubs.
"Sometimes it's not who you're facing but when, and they're rolling pretty good," Mueller said on Tuesday. "You look at any teams they've been facing, and you're going to see a lot of strikeouts."
In fact, the Cardinals fanned 43 times in four games against the Rays. The Cubs do rank second in the National League in strikeouts, and have at least 10 whiffs in 39 of their 117 games. But Mueller is quick to point out that the series against the Rays was the only one in which the Cubs totaled double-digit Ks all three games.
"The bad part about that is, we only get one small glimpse at them," he said. "We don't get to come back and get them back. We get three games, and we're done. You face a tough strikeout team only one time, I think they're going to have the advantage."
But he's not proposing a home-and-away Interleague series against Tampa Bay, at least not yet.
"It's August; our guys have been playing their [tails] off," he said. "We had great series in Colorado and [Los Angeles]. You're going to have some ebbs and flows throughout the season."
The 44 K's against the Rays was a Cubs' franchise record for most in a three-game series. Ever.
"When I hear, 'Oh, you had 55 or 40 something [strikeouts],' I'm like, 'OK, if you look at the league, they're No. 1,'" Mueller said. "We knew that going in."
Bryant takes Minor League homer lead
The Cubs' No. 1 prospect, Kris Bryant, hit his 39th home run of the season on Tuesday to take sole possession of the Minor League lead. It wasn't enough for a victory, however, as Triple-A Las Vegas defeated Iowa, 6-5.
Bryant, ranked No. 3 on MLBPipeline.com's list of Top 100 Prospects, went 3-for-5 with a run and two RBIs.
Bryant entered the day tied with Rangers' No. 1 prospect Joey Gallo atop the Minor League leaderboard. Gallo led all Minor Leaguers with 40 home runs last season and is trying to repeat as home run champion, but he has been locked in a tight race with Bryant all summer.
The Cubs sent Bryant, 22, to Double-A Tennessee to begin the season, and he bashed 22 home runs in the first half. He was promoted to Iowa in June and hasn't stopped slugging in the Pacific Coast League. In 52 games since the promotion, he is hitting .322/.434/.672 with 17 home runs and seven stolen bases.
Bryant has done nothing but hit everywhere the Cubs have sent him since selecting him with the second overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. In 156 games across five levels, he is hitting .340/.435/.689 with 48 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He has scored 129 runs and driven in 132.
• On Saturday, 40 of the best high school baseball players in the country will take part in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Baseball Game at Wrigley Field, including two-sport star Kyler Murray of Allen, Texas.
Murray is the first to be selected for both the Under Armour All-America Baseball and Under Armour All-America Football games. He is best known as the top dual-threat quarterback in the country, and he has led Allen High School to two straight Texas 5A state titles.
Saturday's game will be played at 6:05 p.m. CT, and this will be the first time the annual summer showcase will be played under the lights at Wrigley. Since the game's inception in 2008, 185 of the 208 eligible players from the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game were selected in the First-Year Player Draft, including 51 first-round picks.
• On Tuesday night, in his first Minor League rehab start, left-hander Felix Doubront threw 80 pitches over four-plus innings for Triple-A Iowa in Des Moines against Las Vegas. Doubront, who has been on the disabled list since July 31 with a strained left calf, gave up four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out seven. The Cubs acquired Doubront from the Red Sox on July 30 for a player to be named.
• Outfielder Justin Ruggiano left Tuesday's game because of leg fatigue, but Renteria said the situation is not serious. Shortstop Starlin Castro stayed in the game despite aggravating his left knee, which he twisted running to first base on Monday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.