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Rizzo swinging hot bat as home stretch nears

Special to MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Anthony Rizzo decided to get aggressive on the basepaths Sunday, thinking Javier Baez's sinking line drive would fall in for a hit. Instead, Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins made a sliding catch and Rizzo was an easy out as part of a triple play.

"I guess I read it wrong. I thought it was down, for sure," Rizzo said. "I just put my head down looking to score."

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PHILADELPHIA -- Anthony Rizzo decided to get aggressive on the basepaths Sunday, thinking Javier Baez's sinking line drive would fall in for a hit. Instead, Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins made a sliding catch and Rizzo was an easy out as part of a triple play.

"I guess I read it wrong. I thought it was down, for sure," Rizzo said. "I just put my head down looking to score."

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Fortunately for the Cubs, it's one of few wrong moves their slugging first baseman has made in the last few weeks.

Video: Must C Classic: Phillies turn 7-4-3 triple play

Rizzo continued his surge at the plate in Sunday's 6-3 loss, knocking in two runs in the first inning with a bases-loaded single. Rizzo is hitting .351 in August and has been even better in his past 13 games. In that span, Rizzo has reached base multiple times in 11 games and has a .508 on-base percentage, .420 average, nine extra-base hits and 21 RBIs.

"I hit a few balls where they weren't standing last week," Rizzo said. "Once you get a few knocks under your belt, you feel naturally better about yourself. So that just carries over."

He went 6-for-11 with two walks in the weekend series against the Phillies, which included a two-homer, five-RBI performance in Saturday's 17-2 blowout win. On Sunday, Rizzo choked up and ripped a 2-2 slider from Nick Pivetta through the right side of the Phillies' infield to raise his season RBI total to 92.

"He uses the whole field, he chokes up, he moves the ball around," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's not just trying to hit home runs. When he has the opportunity, when they make a mistake, he has a good swing on that pitch. He's maturing as a hitter."

A three-time National League All-Star, Rizzo is quickly moving in on career highs in both home runs and RBIs. The two homers on Saturday lifted his season total to 30, just two shy of the mark he reached in 2014 and again in '16. His best RBI season came last season, when he drove home 109 runs.

Also heating up for the Cubs this month is the player who bats ahead of Rizzo, Kris Bryant. The 2016 NL MVP Award winner has reached base safely in each of his past 21 starts, and Bryant is hitting .375 with 10 walks in his past 18 games.

With 33 regular-season games left, they'll both be vital as the first-place Cubs brace to defend their NL Central title.

"Start to finish, I try to be consistent as can be the entire year," said Rizzo, a .269 hitter with an .818 OPS in 139 September/October regular-season games. "Expect nothing different in September."

Stephen Pianovich is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia and covered the Cubs on Sunday.

Chicago Cubs