Beeler, 25, threw 91 pitches in a six-inning stint, allowing just one unearned run -- it scored on a wild pitch -- while striking out seven and impressing fans and teammates alike.
“Some guys get third deck shock,” his catcher John Baker said after the 3-0 defeat. “All of a sudden they forget who they are. I wanted to make sure he remembered who he was and he threw the game he wanted to throw.”
“Third deck shock” refers to pitching in a big league stadium as opposed to one in the minors. The pressure, the build-up, the noise are all different. Baker advised Beeler to pretend it was a Double-A game in Pearl, Mississippi.
“It’s a big weight lifted off the shoulders,” Beeler said. “I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be.”
The Cubs did a good job bringing Beeler along after injuries sidelined him some both last year and at the beginning of this one. He played in the Arizona Fall League -- on the team fellow prospect Kris Bryant was winning the most valuable player award on. But Beeler is the first of the highly touted prospects to find his way to Wrigley Field. He was a 41st round pick in 2010 making it before several first-rounders. Most of that was due to timing as it was his turn in the rotation but he earned the chance, as well.
“He induced quite a few ground balls,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He did a nice job. He kept us in the game obviously.
“His tempo was pretty crisp. It kept everyone on their toes. There was no lag time.”
Baker added: “He did a great job not giving into the pressure of the situation, pitching at Wrigley Field for his first major league appearance. It’s a tough thing to do. It was as impressive from behind the plate as it was from the press box.”
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Beeler gave up one hard hit ball all day -- a double to Anthony Rendon in Beeler’s last inning which eventually turned into the game winning run. In at-bats ending with his cutter, the Nationals were 0 for 4. He threw that second most behind his fastball, off which they were 2 for 10. His velocity ranged from about 79 mph on his curveball to 93 mph on his fastball.
Baker likened Beeler to the great Roy Halladay, both in looks and motion.
“He has that shoulder tuck when that leg comes up,” Baker said. “It adds some deception.”
So Beeler heads back to the minors with a successful debut. He’ll regroup with other prospects and wait until another call-up occurs. If his start is representative of what he can do at the big league level then he should be back -- and maybe with some reinforcements on offense. After all, trading season is almost upon us. For now, Beeler has the memory of his major league debut at Wrigley Field on a Saturday afternoon in late June.
“If there was one, just running out there for the first time,” he said. “Just picking up the ball. The first inning, everyone is loud everyone is cheering. That’s the first and best memory of it all.”