CHICAGO (AP) — Arismendy Alcantara is making a strong case to stay with the Chicago Cubs.
Alcantara hit a two-run drive for his first major league homer in Chicago’s 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. He also had a bloop double in the first and is batting .391 (9 for 23) in his first five major league games.
“With my ability, I’m having fun,” Alcantara said. “It can be fast. I’m having fun.”
The 22-year-old Alcantara nearly had a third hit in the ninth, but left fielder Justin Upton made a great catch against the wall to rob the speedster of extra bases. Alcantara, who was promoted when Darwin Barney went on paternity leave on Wednesday, has at least one hit in every game since he went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his major league debut.
“They started dishing him breaking balls and dishing him breaking balls until he showed he could hit the breaking ball,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s holding his own.”
Chris Johnson hit his third homer in two days for Atlanta (52-43), which has won three of four since a four-game losing streak. It heads into the All-Star break one percentage point behind NL East-leading Washington, which won 10-3 at Philadelphia.
“We had a pretty good first half, better than pretty good,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Now we’ve got to enjoy this break and come out in the second half and keep firing.”
Johnson hit a long drive to straightaway center field for a three-run shot in a four-run third inning against Travis Wood (7-8). Johnson also went deep twice in the Braves’ 11-6 victory at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Wood was charged with seven runs and seven hits in six innings. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 6.49 ERA in his past five starts.
“A lot of stuff to improve on, a lot of stuff to do better in the second half,” said Wood, who made the All-Star team last year.
The last-place Cubs (40-54) have lost eight of 10. Chris Coghlan also hit a two-run homer off All-Star Julio Teheran (9-6).
“We fell behind a little bit and kept chipping away,” Renteria said. “I thought the guys kept battling, and we put ourselves in a position potentially to even edge closer, and we just fell a little short.”
Chicago scored three times in the eighth, highlighted by John Baker’s two-run double, but Jordan Walden got Junior Lake to fly out to center with a runner on second for the final out of the inning.
All-Star Craig Kimbrel then worked the ninth for his 29th save in 33 opportunities.
Teheran pitched seven innings in his first start since a rough outing against the Mets. The right-hander lasted just 3 1-3 innings in an 8-3 loss at New York on Tuesday.
Teheran retired 12 in a row after Chicago put runners on first and second with two out in the first. He allowed seven hits while improving to 2-0 in four career starts against the Cubs.
“I know that my last outing I didn’t have a good outing,” said Teheran, who is ineligible for the All-Star game because he started on Sunday. “Just trying to come back like I did twice this year.”
Johnson’s sixth homer was part of his 30th multihit game of the season. The third baseman was walked intentionally in the seventh to get to Tommy La Stella, who doubled home three runs to give the Braves a 10-2 lead.
NOTES: The Braves played without struggling 2B Dan Uggla, who was suspended by the team for one game. Atlanta announced the punishment on its Twitter feed, with no further explanation, and Gonzalez called it an “internal matter.” ... Wood will start Chicago’s second game after the All-Star break. RHP Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.64 ERA) starts the series opener Friday night, and RHP Jake Arrieta (5-1, 1.95 ERA) pitches next Sunday against the Diamondbacks. ... RHP Ervin Santana (7-6, 4.01 ERA) will start Friday night against Philadelphia in Atlanta’s first game after the break. But Gonzalez said he wasn’t sure just yet how the rest of the rotation would line up.