When Anthony Rizzo is your second-best offensive player, you’ve probably got a pretty good team. There was no probably about Rizzo’s performance Wednesday afternoon, though, and the only thing second was his 5th-inning dinger off of Bartolo Colon. It was a welcome change from Tuesday evening, when Noah Syndergaard and Co. fitted the All-Star first baseman for a golden sombrero.
After a flyout in the 1st, Rizzo came to the plate in the 3rd with none out and one on and took a couple pitches before finding something he liked. With a mighty clout, he launched a slider 450 feet out to right center. When Rizzo came up again in the 5th with Kris Bryant on second base, he took a ball before once again finding a slider to his liking. It wasn’t quite as mighty a clout and he pulled it a little more, but the lesser shot still managed to travel about 436 feet.
Rizzo was seeing Colon so well, Northwestern offered him a gastroenterology residency on the spot. Zing!
In all seriousness, it’s pretty obvious that Rizzo knew what he was looking for and absolutely put everything he had into both swings. The throwback jerseys the Cubs were wearing had me thinking of Tecmo Bowl, that glorious NES football game in which you chose from one of four pixelated plays. If you were playing defense and happened to choose the same play as your counterpart, he stood little chance against the onslaught of defenders bull-rushing the ballcarrier.
Looking every bit the part of a bruising linebacker, Rizzo lunged bodily into the first of his dingers with such gusto that he had to step across the plate with his back foot to keep himself from falling over. The balancing act had the dual purpose of allowing him to observe the blast without looking as though he was pimping it too hard. Shortly after his left cleat touched down just shy of where the slugger would stand if he batted righty, it sprang forward to propel a victorious trot.
If the first shot was Charles Barkley’s awkward tee shot, the second was a Henrik Stenson iron. Smooth and pure, Rizzo’s clean stroke belied the power he transferred to the 82 mph slider. And make no mistake, it takes a lot of strength to turn that pitch into a 107 mph line drive. Yowza.
Never mind that he was hitless in two other at-bats, the cannon blasts were enough to push Rizzo’s slash line to .292/.403/.596. That means his OPS falls just shy of the 1.000 mark past which only four players (Jake Lamb, Daniel Murphy, Josh Donaldson, David Ortiz) currently stand. Rizzo’s wRC+ (a catch-all stat that measures runs created and weighs them against a standard of 100) is now 162, tops on the team.
Rizzo has bee flat-out raking since the start of June, slashing .353/.434/.687 with 11 homers and 31 RBI (194 wRC+) in just 40 games. Wait, maybe Kris Bryant’s not their best hitter after all. It really doesn’t matter who you rank above whom, having Bryzzo taking turns tuning up opposing pitching is always a good thing.
And with the rotation back on track after being somewhat derailed heading into the break, things are looking up for the Cubs. Wednesday’s win over the Mets puts them at 4-2 in the second half with series victories over a pair of solid teams. The Cubs may not rattle off another 25-6 stretch here soon, but all they’ve got to do is go 2-1 over and over again and things will turn out just fine.