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Rizzo's astute hustle sets stage for Cubs

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Sometimes, it's better to be smart than fast. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo showed off his baseball smarts in Friday's 3-2 win over the Cardinals.

"I always tell him he's a great baserunner," Jason Heyward said of Rizzo. "That's huge right there to put me in a situation to have a chance to put a run on the board."

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CHICAGO -- Sometimes, it's better to be smart than fast. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo showed off his baseball smarts in Friday's 3-2 win over the Cardinals.

"I always tell him he's a great baserunner," Jason Heyward said of Rizzo. "That's huge right there to put me in a situation to have a chance to put a run on the board."

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The Cubs and Cardinals were tied at 2 in the eighth inning with Trevor Rosenthal on the mound. Rizzo doubled over rookie left fielder Magneuris Sierra and advanced on Ben Zobrist's groundout to third baseman Jhonny Peralta. Rizzo had hesitated, then sprinted to third after Peralta threw to first. He scored on Heyward's sacrifice fly to center.

Video: STL@CHC: Heyward's sacrifice fly puts the Cubs ahead

"I saw where Peralta was playing, and I know he's playing off," Rizzo said. "It was just one of those plays where he had to go to his backhand a little bit and he didn't have much time to look back and set his feet. I know once he looked me back, the two middle infielders weren't playing up the middle but playing more traditional, and it was just one of those things where you hope for the best."

With the run, the Cubs ended a six-game losing streak. What could the Cardinals have done differently in the eighth?

"Maybe pump fake and try to get [Rizzo] to commit," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "If you do that and he does it, runners are going to be standing on first and second.

"It's just a good piece of baserunning," Matheny said. "The only other thing you can do is, if you have a real aggressive first baseman, come off the bag hard or try to make a throw. But he had too good of a jump and it was down the line, so it's a long throw for Peralta. There's not much he can do."

The Cubs aren't fast, but manager Joe Maddon has praised his players' ability to run the bases.

"[Rizzo] is not afraid to make mistakes," Maddon said. "That's what we're looking for. Any time you play cautious baseball, it normally doesn't work. Aggressively smart, I guess is the best way [to put it] -- fortune favors the bold. He watches leads at first base, toys with the pitcher. If he gets a good jump, he's ready to go.

"It was a great read on the ground ball to Peralta," Maddon said. "That's stuff you practice in the instructional league. There's other ways to get to third base with a ground ball on the pull side, and that was one of them."

Rizzo had more to celebrate than the end of a six-game skid. He announced his engagement Thursday night, and his teammates provided him with a cake to celebrate not only the win, but his pending nuptials.

"They put it right in my face," Rizzo said, smiling.

"He wore it, he ate it," Heyward said. "It was fun to see. That's him. That's why he's perfect in his role as team captain and face of the city."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs