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Anthony Rizzo Era Begins With 5-3 Cubs Win

Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs starts up the line after hitting a single against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs starts up the line after hitting a single against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
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The Cubs said they had 2,300 people walk up and buy a ticket for Tuesday night's 5-3 Cubs win over the Mets, though the announced total of tickets sold was more than 1,000 fewer than the night before and it appeared the number of people in the house was maybe 1,000 more than Monday night's gathering.

Presumably, all of this was to see Anthony Rizzo, the designated savior of the new Cubs era. Of course, that's hyperbole. Regardless, it resulted in a Cubs game with timely hitting and good defensive plays, an insurance run when needed, and Carlos Marmol even got into the act with a not-awful inning and a save. (Swagger back? Remains to be seen.)

Rizzo's name was loudly cheered when the lineups were announced and then he got another warm ovation on his first trip to the plate. That at-bat resulted in a hot smash off the glove of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. Cubs official scorer Bob Rosenberg called it an error at first, resulting in loud booing. When have you seen that? And what was Rosenberg thinking?

Less than a minute later, Rosenberg's call was reversed and the "H" sign was flashed on the center-field scoreboard, resulting in cheers as people saw it. A hit! A hit for Rizzo's first Cubs at-bat! We are saved!

Not so fast. Randy Wells was performing his usual 2012 act -- walking too many people (four in three innings) and giving up too many hits (six in three innings). He had to be removed from the game in the top of the fourth after throwing 79 pitches, only about half of them (43) strikes. That could result in this:

And, perhaps another trip to Iowa for Wells; I suppose the Cubs could recall Chris Volstad and try him again -- couldn't really be that much worse, could he? Or figure out a way to give Chris Rusin a shot.

Fortunately, when Wells departed, the Cubs were still leading 3-2, thanks to some walks by Mets starter Dillon Gee and two timely hits (a double by Luis Valbuena and single by Darwin Barney). It could have been more had Valbuena not been thrown out at third base. The Mets tied the game after Wells was removed on a David Wright sac fly, but the Cubs took the lead back in the bottom of the fourth... thanks to Rizzo.

With runners on first and third, Rizzo got a hit up the middle and hustled into second with a double, driving in Steve Clevenger with the lead run. Later in the game, Rizzo made some more slick defensive plays -- with all the talk of his offensive prowess, let's not forget that Rizzo has a reputation for having good hands in the field, too.

The Cubs bullpen did an outstanding job Tuesday, and that's a fairly rare thing in 2012; they threw six shutout innings, allowing just one hit and a pair of walks. Scott Maine, James Russell, Shawn Camp and Marmol get the credit, and though Marmol threw only about half strikes (nine of 17 pitches), he had enough of them in the strike zone for two K's, one of them of Scott Hairston ending the game.

The date wasn't chosen for this reason, but it's a fascinating historical coincidence that a beloved Cub of the past made his Cubs (and major-league) debut on June 26. In 1960, Ron Santo played his first Cubs game on that date, two games, in fact -- a doubleheader in Pittsburgh, during which he went 3-for-7 with five RBI and the awful 1960 Cubs swept the Pirates, who went on to win the World Series that year.

Rizzo's 2-for-4 day with the go-ahead RBI isn't quite that, and the Mets probably aren't going to win the World Series this year, but we'd surely settle for a career as fine as Santo's. Nice to share the evening with BCBers elgato and SackMan.

Day two of Rizzo's Cubs career, coming up at 1:20 this afternoon. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.