The Cubs lost to the Diamondbacks 7-1 in the opener of a four-game series.
Victor Caratini had thrown a scoreless inning in relief, and then Anthony Rizzo took to the mound to a loud ovation from the remnants of a capacity crowd at Wrigley Field. Rizzo’s first pitch sailed outside the strike zone and the second was hit to center field by A.J. Pollock and caught by Ian Happ to another round of cheers.
And no, Gameday, those weren’t “sliders”:
All that was amusing, to be sure, and that’s the first and last time you will ever see Rizzo on the mound:
Rizzo says that's it, he doesn't want to pitch again. It was his 1st time on the mound since his last high school game. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 24, 2018
#Cubs Maddon on Rizzo: "He actually conceded he'll never want to pitch again. ... He's going for the greatest leadoff hitter and relief pitcher in the same season."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 24, 2018
And this, of course, is the reason for all of this amusement:
#Cubs Maddon: "At the end of the game, there's no way I'm going to warm up Wilson, Cishek, Strop, Edwards or Chavez in a game like that. I just had to do what we had to do to maintain the integrity of our bullpen, hit that reset button, whatever you want to call it."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 24, 2018
Fun facts about Rizzo’s pitching debut (and swan song):
The #Cubs have used 29 pitchers this season.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 24, 2018
Two have not allowed a hit.
Jesse Chavez & Anthony Rizzo
#Cubs Anthony Rizzo is the first left-handed throwing player to play first base, second base, and third base and also pitch during his career since George Sisler, who last played in 1930.— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) July 24, 2018
Now, the important thing about all this position player pitching frivolity. This is now the second time in four days that Joe Maddon has had to do this, and the simple reason is that Cubs starting pitchers (with the exception of Jose Quintana Sunday) aren’t going deep enough into games. There are only so many times Theo & Co. can keep shuttling pitchers back and forth from Iowa, and you know there’s going to be another one of those before Tuesday’s game, when Luke Farrell will head back to Des Moines.
Speaking of Farrell, he actually might have deserved better. With one out and runners on first and third in the top of the first, a shot by Pollock hit Farrell on his left wrist [VIDEO] and went to center field for an RBI single.
Now, the first question is: Could that have been turned into a double play if the ball doesn’t hit Farrell? If so, the inning is over. The second question: After Farrell was examined by trainer PJ Mainville, he stayed in the game. Did that incident throw him off for the rest of the inning? He allowed a run-scoring sac fly, then three more hits that made it a five-run first for the D-backs, before getting out of the inning by striking out Patrick Corbin.
Now, Joe’s not going to go to his overworked bullpen in the first inning. But Farrell then did a reasonably good job through one out in the third, being touched up for only one more run, a home run by Paul Goldschmidt.
By the time Farrell left the game, it was probably over. The Cubs did have a couple of chances to get back in it. In the fourth, Rizzo led off with a single, and one out later Albert Almora Jr. also singled. Somewhat foolishly, I thought, Almora tried to stretch the hit into a double and was thrown out. If the Cubs have runners on first and third with one out, maybe they score a run or two there. In the sixth, they finally did get on the board. Ian Happ doubled, went to third on a single by Jason Heyward and scored on a fielder’s choice by Rizzo, who was a busy guy in this game.
The bullpen, even without Caratini and Rizzo, did a pretty good job eating up some innings. Brian Duensing had his best outing since his return from the disabled list, 2⅔ shutout innings, helped out by this nice snag [VIDEO] of a line drive off the bat of Daniel Descalso.
Randy Rosario threw 1⅔ innings and allowed one unearned run. All told, Cubs relievers and “relievers” combined for 5⅔ innings, allowed three hits, that unearned run and struck out three.
This game wasn’t going to be easy to win even if Farrell had turned in a better outing. Patrick Corbin is one of the D-backs most reliable starters and he simply didn’t give the Cubs much to hit at all the whole game, striking out nine and issuing no walks. That’s just the second time this season the Cubs have failed to draw a walk in a game, and the first time since May 4 against the Cardinals.
And so there isn’t much more to be said about this one, other than to smile at Rizzo’s two major league pitches and move on to the next game. Sometimes, doing something like this in an otherwise bad loss takes the sting out of it, and as noted by Mark Gonzales in the Tribune:
Rizzo recalled that when catcher David Ross pitched in 2015 in a blowout, that eventually relaxed the team and it embarked on a winning streak.
Who knows? Maybe that’ll happen again.
The other story of this day was the giveaway of perhaps the most popular bobblehead of the year, one depicting Javier Baez, who went 2-for-4 on his bobblehead night. The lines at the time the ballpark opened were very, very long:
Here’s what everyone was waiting for:
Tuesday, the series against the D-backs continues. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Clay Buchholz will go for Arizona. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage Tuesday will be via WGN.