PITTSBURGH -- Anthony Rizzo didn't let a little controversy stop him. The first baseman, who was booed each at-bat, smacked a game-tying homer to spark a three-run rally in the seventh inning and lift the Cubs to an 8-6 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park.Rizzo wasn't
PITTSBURGH -- Anthony Rizzo didn't let a little controversy stop him. The first baseman, who was booed each at-bat, smacked a game-tying homer to spark a three-run rally in the seventh inning and lift the Cubs to an 8-6 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
Rizzo wasn't surprised by the fans' reaction. The Cubs aren't very popular in Pittsburgh, especially since winning the National League Wild Card Game in 2015. Plus, Rizzo's slide into home on Monday clipped Elias Diaz, whose throw sailed and allowed two runs to score. On Tuesday, MLB reviewed the play and said the call should've been interference.
"The fans here will always give it to you," Rizzo said. "We've had some fun games here, fun times playing the Pirates. A few years ago with the Wild Card Game -- and games before that -- it's fun. I'm not too surprised.
• Morning Lineup Podcast: Rizzo's disputed slide
"You have to cancel out the outside noise at all times, good or bad. You've got a job to do at the end of the day, and between those lines, you have to be super focused and locked in."
"They tried," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Pirates' fans. "When you create rules like this and a player just plays hard and well, a fan base is going to get the wrong impression. Most people will tell you what they've heard and not what they think. That's always my concern. The moment it happened, it was one of my biggest concerns last night was that 'Riz' would be looked at in an unfavorable way."
Jonathan Lester collected two hits, bounced a throw to shortstop Addison Russell for a force and got the win. The Cubs' starter served up two home runs, including a solo shot to Diaz in the second inning.
"'Riz' is not a dirty player, he's never been a dirty player, he never will be a dirty player -- he's just playing the game hard," Lester said in defense of his first baseman. "I would say the same about their guys across the way. It's a good baseball play that gets a negative pub behind it, and unfortunately Rizzo pays the price for that."
Rizzo couldn't avoid a questionable play on Tuesday. A fan in the right-field bleachers caught the home run, but after a crew chief review, umpires could not determine if he interfered with the ball and the call stood. Rizzo, who also doubled in the first to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, now has driven in a run in each of his last five games. He has 28 RBIs this month and 14 in his last 11 games.
"You feel more relaxed," Rizzo said about being on a good streak. "That's the biggest key of anyone is being more relaxed. The preparation is pretty much the same, same drills beforehand, same video work. Balls are falling in. I'm probably gripping the bat a little less tighter than I was a couple weeks ago."
Benjamin Zobrist smacked a two-run homer in the fifth and Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run laser shot to right in the eighth, but the Cubs' seventh inning was key. Trailing 4-3 with one out, Rizzo connected against Edgar Santana. Willson Contreras singled and scored on Ian Happ's double, and he came home one out later on Jason Heyward's single.
Contreras was the only Cubs player hit by a pitch, not Rizzo, and the catcher was plunked twice.
"I loved his reaction," Maddon said of the second time Contreras was hit in the eighth. "He smiled and ran to first base. My God, do I love him. That's also another component that makes him the best catcher in baseball."
Added Contreras: "I didn't take [getting hit] a bad thing. Maybe after the second hit by pitch, I made a sign to the pitcher, but I didn't take it as intentional."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lester entered the game with two hits in 19 at-bats this season, and he doubled that total. With one out in the Chicago fifth, Lester singled and Zobrist followed with his third home run of the season, launching an 0-2 slider to right to trim the deficit to 3-2. Heyward doubled with two outs in the sixth and Lester drove him in with a single. It marked Lester's second career multi-hit game; he also had two hits last Aug. 1 against the D-backs.
"Give the guy credit," Maddon said of Lester, who allowed four runs over six innings. "A lot of stuff going on, a lot of awkward emotion being released, and he hung in there and righted himself and pitched extremely well." More >
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Happ had trouble with the late afternoon sun in center field trying to snare Austin Meadows' fly ball in the first. Meadows ended up with a double and then scored on Starling Marte's double. But Happ made up for that with a running catch of Diaz's fly ball for the second out in the sixth. Happ slammed into the wall after the play but stayed in the game.
HE SAID IT
"He can reach Jacob Arrieta status. It's not impossible." -- Maddon, on Rizzo, comparing him to Arrieta, who threw a complete game shutout in the Cubs' Wild Card Game victory in 2015 over the Pirates.
Kyle Hendricks will go for the series sweep at 6:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday. The right-hander is coming off a solid start against the Giants in which he gave up one run on two hits over seven innings. He lost to the Pirates on April 12 despite posting a quality start and striking out seven over six innings. Pittsburgh will counter with Joe Musgrove.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.