Hitting leadoff helps nudge Rizzo out of slump

July 14th, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- Last year, jokingly proclaimed himself to be the greatest leadoff hitter of all time after a strong showing at the top of the Cubs' lineup. On Friday night, he was batting first, but this time as a hitter trying to get back on track. It worked.
Rizzo collected three hits, including a clutch game-tying RBI double with two outs in the ninth inning, to help propel the Cubs to a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Padres at Petco Park.
Manager Joe Maddon inserted Rizzo into the leadoff spot against lefty to give the first baseman "a different mindset."
"Why not?" Maddon said. "He's been struggling a bit. Clayton Richard kills lefties and throws only ground balls, so it made all the sense in the world. Just get him out of the way and get all the righties up there.
"[Rizzo will] tell you he's the greatest of all time," Maddon said. "Let him get up there and have a good time and see what happens."

"I'll do anything right now," Rizzo said. "He's just trying to get me going some way, somehow."
Rizzo faced a defensive shift in his first at-bat and grounded out to third baseman who was stationed on the first-base side of second. He grounded out to Richard to end the second and then ended an 0-for-21 stretch with a one-out single in the fifth. Against Padres right-hander in the seventh, Rizzo doubled.
His biggest at-bat came in the ninth against Padres closer Brad Hand.
"Hand, he's got the sinker and he runs it away from you," Rizzo said. "I was able to put a good swing on him. I had a good at-bat the at-bat before. Hand, he's one of the best in the biz. I was lucky enough -- he left a slider up just a tick."
Rizzo got ahead, 2-0 in the count, but the Padres' closer battled back to a full count. He connected on a slider.
"After his second at-bat, they became really aggressively better at-bats -- right-center gap, left-field corner, left-center-field gap, not just trying to pull the ball," Maddon said of Rizzo's progression during the game. "That was the secret to the whole thing. Give him credit, man. He's been grinding very, very hard."
scored the game-winner in the Cubs 10th when he singled, stole second, then reached third on an error and scored on another miscue.

Rizzo will ilkely sleep a little better Friday night. He'll be leading off again Saturday.
"I'm fighting myself a lot at the plate," Rizzo said. "It's been a grind. One swing feels good, one time it doesn't. I'm not usually the most mechanical person, but something is in there that isn't firing the right way. We're trying to work on it every day.
"I just have to keep playing and hit some balls where they're not standing," he said.
That would mean trying to avoid the overload of defenders on shifts. The good news is that Rizzo isn't striking out a lot during this stretch.
"I get my pitch, and I can't miss it," he said. "I have to put a good swing on it. It's the love-hate relationship of baseball."