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Cubs follow Rizzo's HR 'lead' to beat Padres

June 20, 2017

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo smacked his third leadoff home run in the last seven games and rookie Ian Happ hit his ninth homer to back Mike Montgomery and lift the Cubs to a 4-0 victory on Tuesday night over the Padres, who lost for the fourth time in their last

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo smacked his third leadoff home run in the last seven games and rookie Ian Happ hit his ninth homer to back Mike Montgomery and lift the Cubs to a 4-0 victory on Tuesday night over the Padres, who lost for the fourth time in their last five games. With the win and a Brewers loss, the Cubs moved to a half-game back in the National League Central Division.
Rizzo apparently wasn't thrown off following Monday night's controversial collision with Padres catcher Austin Hedges at home plate. Earlier in the day, Rizzo talked to Major League Baseball officials and was told he'd violated Rule 6.01(c), but he wouldn't receive any further discipline from the league in the form of a fine or a suspension.
Rizzo's response? He launched the second pitch from Padres starter Jhoulys Chacin to center for his 17th home run.
"As long as we keep winning, I have no problem with it," Rizzo said about leading off. "I have no problem going back to third or fourth or wherever Joe [Maddon] feels is best for the club. The main thing is we keep winning."
The Cubs also tallied on Addison Russell's RBI single in the fourth, and Happ's leadoff homer in the eighth, which traveled a Statcast-projected 415 feet. Albert Almora Jr. added a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth as well.

Montgomery, making his third start subbing for Kyle Hendricks, threw six shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out four. The lefty got some help, including a nice play by second baseman Javier Baez, who made a sliding stop of Franchy Cordero's ball with one out in the sixth and was able to get to his feet in time to throw him out at first.

"I think this time, having the extra day [between starts], really gave me a chance to get my legs under me more," Montgomery said. "I felt strong, even towards the end. I just have to try to keep that going."
Montgomery is part of a good trend. Cubs starting pitchers are 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in the last seven games, limiting opponents to a .193 average. They've also had three straight quality starts for the first time since May 31-June 3.
Chacin, meanwhile, posted his best start of the season away from Petco Park, as he lowered his road ERA to 9.08 (compared with a 1.72 mark at home). He struck out six and allowed two runs on five hits over six frames, his fourth straight quality start. But the Padres -- who are 0-for-17 with men in scoring position this series -- found themselves in an early hole after Chacin misplaced a fastball to Rizzo.
"I was trying to go down and away, and the ball stayed down and in the middle," Chacin said. "He hit it well. He's been swinging the bat really well lately, and you have to execute better pitches to him."
Leadoff man: It's been one week since Rizzo moved into the leadoff spot, and he's made the most of it. In seven games in the No. 1 spot in the order, Rizzo now has three home runs, a double, two singles and drawn a walk in his first at-bat. Rizzo also extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games, and he has 11 extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in that stretch. According to STATS Inc., Rizzo is the only player in the Majors to reach base in his first seven career games as a leadoff hitter since at least 1974. The last Cubs leadoff batter to reach base in seven straight games was Richie Ashburn, who did it June 28-July 3, 1960. More >

"Whenever you have your name on the board compared to Richie Ashburn, that's pretty significant," Maddon said.
De-Fense: Chacin escaped a few jams, getting inning-ending double plays in the second and again in the fourth. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on singles by Willson Contreras, Russell and Miguel Montero. Chacin got Baez to hit a grounder to first baseman William Myers, who threw out Contreras at home without incident. Pinch-hitter Thomas La Stella then grounded out to second baseman Chase d'Arnaud.

"Whenever [Montgomery] pitches, the projected ground ball percentage is very high. It was good to have the boys out there [in the infield] under those circumstances. We looked somewhat normal on the infield. We played that normal kind of Cub infield game that we've gotten used to over the last two years. It was really fun to watch." -- Maddon, on the infield defense
"I was trying to pitch my game. I had a meeting with [manager Andy Green], and he asked me to give my word I won't hit him on purpose. He asked me to pitch inside to try to get him out instead of putting him on first base. I was trying to do that, I was trying to make good pitches to him, and he hit a homer. That wasn't the result I was looking for. In the second AB, I got him out by pitching inside." -- Chacin, on his approach against Rizzo after Monday's collision
Rizzo is the first Cubs player with three leadoff homers in one month since Alfonso Soriano hit three in April 2009.
With two out in the eighth and Baez at third, Albert Almora Jr. hit a ball into the gap in right center. Baez scored and Almora tried to reach third on his hit, but he was out on a 9-6-5 relay. The Cubs challenged, and after a review, the call was ruled to stand.

Padres second baseman Yangervis Solarte was scratched because of a strained left oblique. Solarte was in the starting lineup, but d'Arnaud took the field at second in the bottom of the first. Solarte was batting .393 (11-for-28) with five homers and eight RBIs over his last seven games. More >

Padres: Rookie Miguel Diaz is slated for his third career start, when the Padres wrap up the three-game set at Wrigley Field on Wednesday at 11:20 a.m. PT. The Rule 5 right-hander, who has yet to throw more than 66 pitches in an outing this year, will be looking to stake his claim for a longer-term place in the rotation.
Cubs: Right-hander Eddie Butler will start the series finale against the Padres, making his eighth start of the season, on Wednesday at 1:20 p.m. CT. In his last outing against the Pirates, he got a no-decision, giving up four earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.