Cubs 7, Pirates 3: The Anthony Rizzo We Dreamed Of

Justin K. Aller

The Cubs got big offensive production out of one of the centerpieces of their lineup.

Here, now, is the Anthony Rizzo we thought we were getting when the Cubs sent Andrew Cashner to the Padres in an exchange of highly-touted young players.

Over his last 13 games, Rizzo is 18-for-48 (.375/.444./792) with five doubles and five home runs. Two of those doubles and one of the home runs (his 13th of the season) came Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, helping lead the Cubs to a 7-3 win over the Pirates, evening up their four-game series at one win each.

For the season, Rizzo is now hitting .284/.406/.514. The .920 OPS gives him an OPS+ of 150; both rank ninth in the National League. Rizzo is second in the league in walks (42, just four behind the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, and his OBP ranks fourth), and the 13 homers are tied for fourth in the N.L.

A genuine lefthanded power hitter in the middle of the Cubs' lineup -- what a novel concept. Keep up the good work, Anthony -- in fact, that's All-Star performance, as only one other first baseman (Paul Goldschmidt) is having a year as good as Rizzo's (Freddie Freeman is close). Perhaps the Cubs might even have two All-Star representatives this year, as Jeff Samardzija seems like a strong candidate as well.

Rizzo's home run gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead before the Pirates and heralded rookie Gregory Polanco even batted. There was a buzz in the Pittsburgh crowd for his first big-league at-bat, which turned into a pop fly to shortstop. Polanco later singled for his first major-league hit and went 1-for-5 in the Pirates loss. What's more interesting is that the Pirates sold about 7,500 more tickets for Tuesday night's game than Monday night's. I'd guess most of those were people wanting to see Polanco's debut. Will this result in higher ticket sales for the Pirates going forward?

The Pirates managed to tie up the game off Travis Wood in the third inning on a two-run homer by McCutchen, and were keeping it close until Francisco Liriano landed wrong on a follow-through and had to leave the game. The injury was later termed a "strained left oblique", which can be serious business, especially for pitchers -- oblique injuries often take a month or more to be made right.

The Cubs then teed off on Bucs relievers, particularly Casey Sadler, who was pitching in just his fourth major-league game. Darwin Barney hit an RBI double, again getting his batting average to the Mendoza Line, and Luis Valbuena, who didn't start the game, went 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI.

Wood didn't have his best stuff, but managed to post a quality start (three earned runs in 6⅔ innings), and a parade of five Cubs relievers (Brian Schlitter, Wesley Wright, Pedro Strop, James Russell and Neil Ramirez) finished up by allowing just two hits and a pair of walks in 2⅓ innings of scoreless work.

Finally, it should be noted that the Cubs are still undefeated (2-0) wearing camo jerseys, which were worn Tuesday for Military Appreciation Night in Pittsburgh.

The teams will continue the series Wednesday night, weather permitting, with Jason Hammel facing Pirates rookie Brandon Cumpton.

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