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Cubs 3, Reds 0: Anthony Rizzo Joins Exclusive Club

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Congratulations to the Cubs first baseman for doing something quite rare in team history.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

This is the kind of game I think we're going to see more and more of as the calendar turns to 2015 and beyond: Solid starting pitching. Excellent relief work. And, a display of power from some of the Cubs' young hitters.

Tuesday night in Cincinnati, it was Anthony Rizzo and Arismendy Alcantara homering for the Cubs, providing all the runs in a 3-0 shutout of the Reds. Rizzo's homer, his 30th of the season, was significant because it's been very, very unusual for a Cubs lefthanded hitter to hit 30 or more in a season.

How rare? Here's the list of all the other Cubs to do it before Rizzo:

Rk Player Year HR Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Fred McGriff 2002 30 38 CHC NL 146 595 523 67 143 103 63 99 .273 .353 .505 .858
2 Henry Rodriguez 1998 31 30 CHC NL 128 473 415 56 104 85 54 113 .251 .334 .530 .864
3 Rick Wilkins 1993 30 26 CHC NL 136 500 446 78 135 73 50 99 .303 .376 .561 .937
4 Rick Monday 1976 32 30 CHC NL 137 601 534 107 145 77 60 125 .272 .346 .507 .853
5 Billy Williams 1972 37 34 CHC NL 150 650 574 95 191 122 62 59 .333 .398 .606 1.005
6 Billy Williams 1970 42 32 CHC NL 161 714 636 137 205 129 72 65 .322 .391 .586 .977
7 Billy Williams 1968 30 30 CHC NL 163 699 642 91 185 98 48 53 .288 .336 .500 .836
8 Billy Williams 1965 34 27 CHC NL 164 719 645 115 203 108 65 76 .315 .377 .552 .929
9 Billy Williams 1964 33 26 CHC NL 162 709 645 100 201 98 59 84 .312 .370 .532 .901
10 Bill Nicholson 1944 33 29 CHC NL 156 686 582 116 167 122 93 71 .287 .391 .545 .935
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/26/2014.

That's six players doing it 10 times. Five of the 10 seasons were by Hall of Famer Billy Williams (who's also, as you see, the only Cubs lefthanded hitter to hit 40 in a season, something Rizzo might do in the future). Only three of the seasons (Rick Wilkins, 1993; Henry Rodriguez, 1998; and Fred McGriff, 2002) have occurred since 1976.

And now, Rizzo. Congrats to Anthony, who hit his home run as a heavy rain began to fall; Starlin Castro singled after Rizzo's blast and then the game was stopped for 50 minutes. Looking at local radars, it was a storm much like the one that ruined last Tuesday's game at Wrigley Field, blowing up almost directly over the ballpark. The Reds grounds crew got the field covered and there were no issues resuming; I assume if they'd had any idea it was going to rain like that four batters into the contest, they wouldn't have started on time. Good thing for the Cubs and Rizzo that they did.

And, of course, you'd like to see Rizzo's blast if you haven't, or see it again if you have. Courtesy of BCBer ubercubsfan, here it is:

Rizzo later had to leave the game with what was described as "lower back tightness," but don't panic:

So, hopefully, he'll be good to go Wednesday evening when the series continues. Incidentally, if the season ended with this game, Rizzo's RBI count of 71 would be among the 10 lowest RBI totals for anyone with 30 or more homers in a season (record: 64, by Felix Mantilla in 1964, tied by Rob Deer in 1992). This reflects a lack of baserunners on ahead of Rizzo, something that hopefully will be solved by better leadoff and No. 2 hitter work in the future. Cubs leadoff hitters have a .292 OBP this year and No. 2 hitters are at .320, so there's work to be done in that realm.

Just for good visual measure, here's Alcantara's two-run shot:

There sure weren't many people in the seats in Cincinnati, were there?

The other story of this game was Travis Wood, who was outstanding; this was his best outing in more than two months, since he threw eight shutout innings against the Phillies June 15 in Philadelphia. It was noted by Len and JD that Wood didn't have any ground ball outs until the very last batter he faced, Brandon Phillips, who completed Wood's six innings by grounding to Javier Baez at second base. Wood lowered his ERA from 4.91 to 4.72 and issued just one walk, the second straight start he's done that. If he gets his command and control back, he's still got five (maybe six) more starts to finish 2014 strong.

The bullpen did exactly as needed in this one; Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (22nd save) threw three shutout innings, allowing one single and one walk. Ramirez struck out the side in his inning and Rondon added a K in a 13-pitch inning, longer than some of his recent saves but still quite efficient.

There's been some debate here (and elsewhere) about who will be removed from the 25-man roster to make room for Jorge Soler, who will make his major-league debut Wednesday night. That question might have been answered when Ryan Sweeney pulled up running out a ground ball in the second inning and had to leave the game with an apparent hamstring injury. I suspect Sweeney will hit the disabled list to make room for Soler, leaving Matt Szczur and Justin Ruggiano (who also has a minor injury) on the active roster.

The win was just the ninth for the Cubs in Cincinnati since the start of 2012 (14 losses) and just the second time the Cubs have shut out the Reds at all since 2008. The Reds appear in free-fall due to injury and poor play, and this Cubs win puts them just 3½ games behind the Reds for fourth place in the N.L. Central.

Draft position is important. So is having young players win games at the big-league level. I like this "winning" thing. Keep it up, guys.

Wednesday evening, the teams meet again with Jacob Turner making his first start as a Cub against the Reds' Mat Latos.