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Cubs 1, Reds 0: Welcome Back, Anthony Rizzo

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The Cubs first baseman came back from nearly three weeks away with an injury and won a game for his team.

David Banks

So I guess Anthony Rizzo's back is better.

Rizzo, playing for the first time since August 26, hit a walkoff home run off the Reds' Pedro Villareal that gave the Cubs a 1-0 win over the Reds. It was Rizzo's second walkoff homer of the season. He also did it June 6 against the Marlins (and yes, I had forgotten about that when I tweeted last night, but as you can see here, it's not listed as such on Rizzo's home-run log at baseball-reference). That does mean that Rizzo is responsible for the last three Cub walkoff homers, as the one previous to that was the one I mentioned in my tweet, July 29, 2012 against the Cardinals.

This was one of the more unusual walkoff homers in Cubs history. The last time a Cub hit a walkoff homer that accounted for all the runs in a game was June 16, 1995, when Howard Johnson hit a two-run ninth-inning walkoff to beat the Dodgers. And the last time any Cub hit a walkoff homer in a 1-0 game was June 8, 1971, in the 12th inning, by Joe Pepitone.

So events like Monday's are pretty rare.

Before that we were treated to a pitchers' duel. I nearly called it an "old-fashioned" pitchers' duel, but that would have involved starting pitchers going the whole game. This time, as is traditional in 21st-century baseball, the starters were pulled around the 100-pitch mark (98 for Travis Wood, 107 for Alfredo Simon). It was one of Wood's best starts of the year and the second time in a month that he had held the Reds scoreless. He gave up three singles and three walks and was helped out by some slick defense from Javier Baez, who has really impressed me with his range and accurate arm at shortstop. (Note! This doesn't mean I think Starlin Castro should be moved off shortstop or traded.) As I noted in the game preview, with the six-man rotation currently in use Wood will likely have just one more start this year; another start like this one will at least give him a good foundation to build on for 2015.

The defensive play of the game, though, was turned in by Arismendy Alcantara in the eighth inning, when, with Billy Hamilton on first base and two out, he ran down a long fly ball by Khristoper Negron and caught it almost at the ivy in right-center. Nearly the entire team waited for Mendy near the third-base line to high-five him for this defensive gem. Hamilton would have scored easily.

Other than that, the bullpen triad of Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon did its job; just one other batter (Devin Mesoraco) reached base off those three, when Rondon walked him in the ninth. He was forced by Yorman Rodriguez, who was then caught stealing to end the inning, just before Rizzo's blast, which happened on the second pitch of the bottom of the ninth,

There's one other thing to note about Monday's game: the score. It was one of three 1-0 games played Monday (Rays over Yankees and Padres over Phillies the others) and there have now been 60 1-0 games in the major leagues this year. That ties 2014 with 1916 for the 14th-most such games in any one season. Most of the seasons with more are either from the deadball era (1907, 1908, 1909, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918) or the low-scoring 1960s or 1970s (1968, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976). The outlier is 2010, the only recent season with more; 62 1-0 games were played that year, and of course this year still has nearly two weeks to top that. The record for one season, which won't be broken, is 94, set in 1914.

But this does point out the relative lack of offense in baseball now, as we appear to be entering a pitcher-dominated era. With 12 games remaining, the Cubs have scored 563 runs, 39 fewer than a year ago; they'll come close to matching the 602 from 2013 but likely not many more. They are 40 runs short of matching their runs-allowed total from 2013 (689)... so at least for those two numbers, the 2013 and 2014 seasons are going to wind up as virtually identical. The Cubs' current runs-scored total ranks 27th (last year they were 28th); the runs-allowed count ranks 22nd (in 2013: 18th).

The Cubs began security screenings with wanding at Gate K on Waveland; other gates will be added later. It didn't seem to slow things down, though with larger crowds this could be an issue. A walk-through metal detector was at an employee gate as they test those, too.

So there's still work to do. The Cubs will go for their second straight win over the Reds Tuesday evening in a matchup of the teams' top starters: Jake Arrieta vs. Johnny Cueto.