Cubs roll to historic sweep of Bucs; Rizzo injured

North Siders hit 14 homers, score 47 runs in record-setting series

September 16th, 2019

CHICAGO -- was on his back in the infield grass on Sunday afternoon, grimacing in pain as Cubs manager Joe Maddon looked on. A group of teammates surrounded the first baseman, while Wrigley Field -- a place known for its raucous environment -- fell strangely silent.

"It was really weird standing out there after it happened," Cubs third baseman said. "Everybody's just kind of quiet. I've never really experienced that here."

What happened was Rizzo severely rolled his right ankle in the third inning against the Pirates, tumbling to the ground in obvious pain. What happened next was the Cubs continued forward with the next-man-up attitude that has defined 2019, pouring out the runs en route to a 16-6 rout of Pittsburgh that reached historic heights.

Bryant launched two home runs to pass Ernie Banks for the most (138) in the first five seasons of a Cubs career. Chicago's five homers on the day gave the team a club-record 14 in a three-game series. And the surplus of runs upped the Cubs' tally to 47 over the past three days, marking the most in a three-game set for the franchise since 1894.

The team was known as the Chicago Colts back then and had the likes of Jiggs Parrott, Pop Shriver and Malachi Kittridge in the lineup.

The win also helped the Cubs pull within two games of the National League Central-leading Cardinals, and kept the Brewers one game back of the North Siders in the race for the second Wild Card spot. Chicago remains 1 1/2 games back of the Nationals for the NL's top Wild Card seed.

Inside the clubhouse after the win, everyone traced the victory back to the third inning. That could have been a deflating moment for the Cubs.

"There's also galvanizing moments, too," Maddon said. "When your better guys go down a little bit like that, the other folks realize, 'Hey, let's go.' So that's part of the mindset, too. You can't permit that to drag you down. We didn't."

Ben Zobrist was absent for four months while tending to a family situation earlier this year. All-Star catcher Willson Contreras and his backup, Victor Caratini, have both missed time. Bryant has been dogged by a knee issue off and on this season. The rotation has dealt with injuries to Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish at various points, too.

Currently, closer Craig Kimbrel (right elbow) is on the injured list, Addison Russell is on the concussion list and star shortstop Javier Baez is out for the regular season with a hairline fracture in his left thumb.

There have been plenty of other injury woes that could be mentioned as well. But on the other side of the equation, there is also a list of players who have stepped up.

"It's no different than Yelich being lost to the Brewers," said Maddon, referring to Christian Yelich being out for the season with a fractured kneecap. "Stuff happens, man. You've just got to keep moving it forward."

X-rays showed no fractures in Rizzo's right ankle, but he will undergo an MRI exam on Monday to gather more details about the severity of the injury.

"We're going to need him. But I don't know how long it's going to be," Bryant said. "He's been the rock of this team for a very long time."

Rizzo's injury came as he attempted to make a play on a bunt single by Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams. The first baseman got off a throw before dropping to the ground, but it was off-target and helped spur a five-run inning for Pittsburgh. Six batters after Rizzo exited the game, Cubs starter Jose Quintana was pulled by Maddon.

Under the circumstances, Bryant did not rule out the idea that the setback with Rizzo contributed to Quintana losing his composure on the mound.

"It's tough to pitch through that after that," Bryant said. "You saw what happened. It kind of unraveled a little bit. But, Anthony, I mean, he would want us to come together. He'd truly want us to come together after that and we really did."

The turnaround started in the home half of the third with Bryant, who belted a pitch from Williams out to left for his 31st home run of the season. That followed a three-run shot in the first inning for Bryant, who has five homers in his past six games, and joined Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez as the only third baseman in Cubs history with multiple 30-homer campaigns.

Tony Kemp capped off a five-run third with a pinch-hit, two-run triple into the right-field corner. Chicago tacked on two more runs in each of the fourth and fifth. In the latter, it was Ian Happ -- Rizzo's replacement at first base -- who delivered a two-run home run. Kyle Schwarber added a two-run blast in the seventh and Lucroy followed suit with a solo shot in the eighth.

"They swung the bats as well as I’ve seen them swing the bats," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, I think we played a big part in that. You give them credit for hitting our mistakes, for sure."

For Maddon, he gave his team all the credit in the world for keeping its foot on the gas after absorbing a blow like losing Rizzo.

"We're used to it in a sense," Maddon said. "We're going to miss Rizz. We already miss Javy. But, I really believe the rest of the group's up for the task."