CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber each hit home runs on Saturday, but the game belonged to the Cubs' bullpen.Relievers Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop combined to throw 3 1/3 perfect innings in the Cubs' 5-4 victory over the Padres at Wrigley Field. Rizzo kept up his
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber each hit home runs on Saturday, but the game belonged to the Cubs' bullpen.
Relievers Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop combined to throw 3 1/3 perfect innings in the Cubs' 5-4 victory over the Padres at Wrigley Field. Rizzo kept up his hot pace at the top of the lineup, hitting a two-run homer, while Schwarber belted a solo shot -- his 20th home run of the season -- to give Kyle Hendricks the win and hand the Padres their 70th loss this season.
"Consistent -- that's the biggest thing," Rizzo said of the Cubs' relief corps. "They come into the game and, if you rewind, four, five years ago, you'd scratch your head with people coming in. But, on this team, everyone who comes in the game, you feel confident in. That's pretty unique. you don't have that on every team."
The Cubs have survived so far without closer Brandon Morrow, who is on the disabled list for the second time this season, this time because of inflammation in his right triceps. Strop has taken over the closer's role, converting his last four save opportunities -- the longest stretch of his career.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon could take his pick of Strop, Cishek, Kintzler, Justin Wilson or C.J. Edwards to close games in Morrow's absence. All have done it.
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"'Mo's' awesome -- and we're a much better bullpen when he's there. But until he's healthy, it's our job to make sure we're keeping the score the same and, in our case, for Stropy, finishing the ballgame," Cishek said. "I feel any one of us could [close the game], but Strop's our guy, right now. He's been awesome. It's just a matter of pulling together and getting the job done, regardless of the circumstances."
Said Strop: "Anybody can close the game. It shouldn't be that difficult for [Maddon] to make the decision."
It isn't always 1-2-3. On Friday, Strop gave up two runs in the ninth inning of the Cubs' 5-4 win over the Padres.
"[Friday] was a battle," Strop said. "Today, I just simplified things and tried to execute my pitches and tried to keep it as short as possible."
Cishek calls Strop a "beast." He means that in a good way.
"I always hear that from him," Strop said, laughing. "It feels good when he tells me that. He's a beast, too. I always say, as a reliever, you don't have time to think about rough ones. You've got to be able to put the bad ones away sooner [rather] than later and just focus on what's in the moment. I think I have that ability to put the bad ones away quick, and I think that's been huge for me in my career to be consistent."
Schwarber and Rizzo each hit a double and a home run in the game, with Rizzo winning the distance contest. His two-run shot in the fifth went 444 feet to straightaway center. Schwarber's shot leading off the five-run second inning was measured at a respectable 405 feet. Both came off the Padres' Walker Lockett, who was making a spot start in place of Joey Lucchesi, who was sidelined by stomach flu and bumped back to Sunday's finale.
Rizzo seems to be digging the leadoff spot. He has five home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games. In 22 games at the top of the Cubs' lineup, he's 30-for-81 (.370) with six doubles, one triple, six homers and 10 walks.
Is Rizzo on one of those home run streaks?
"I hope so," Rizzo said. "I hope they continue to keep coming. I just try to have good at-bats every time."
Hendricks scattered five hits, including Austin Hedges' home run, over 5 2/3 innings on a sweltering day at Wrigley, where the game-time temperature was 93 degrees. Hendricks is the only right-hander in the Cubs' rotation now. What's that feel like?
"I feel [how] the lefties feel most of the time," Hendricks said.
He appreciated the bullpen's efforts the most.
"They were huge," Hendricks said of the relief effort. "It didn't look like a one-run ballgame, the way they were pitching. They were attacking the strike zone and made huge pitches when they needed to. That was awesome to see today."
And they have fun together in the 'pen.
"I don't want to go home 10 years from now and when my kids ask me, 'Hey, Papi, did you have fun when you played?' I want to say, 'Yes,'" Strop said. "I try to put my teammates in the same mood every time. Sometimes you're in a bad mood, but I make sure they're in a good mood when they go out to pitch."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jump start: Schwarber joined the 20-homer club when he led off the second with his blast off a 3-2 fastball from Lockett. It's the second straight season he's reached 20 homers, after totaling 30 in 2017. The Cubs weren't done. Ian Happ singled and two outs later, scored on Addison Russell's single. Rizzo followed with his 17th home run, a 444-foot shot on top of the batter's eye suite in center field. Jason Heyward added an RBI single for a 5-0 lead.
Rizzo now has 182 home runs with the Cubs and moved into sole possession of 11th place on the team's all-time list, passing Alfonso Soriano (181). Next up is Hack Wilson, who hit 190 home runs for the team.
HE SAID IT
"We're on the upswing. [Jose Quintana] has been throwing real well. [Cole] Hamels' first start looked real good. Even today, I thought it was better than the line turned out. We have to stick with what we're doing, follow Jon [Lester] and make good pitches, attacking the strike zone. It'll come, but I think we're on the upswing now." -- Hendricks, on the Cubs' rotation
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With one out in the Chicago fifth, Schwarber lined the ball off the wall in right field. Hunter Renfroe threw a strike to shortstop Freddy Galvis and Schwarber was called out. But the Cubs challenged the ruling and, after a review, the call was overturned.
Lester will close this brief homestand against the Padres' Lucchesi. He had some command issues in his last outing against the Pirates, as he gave up four runs over five innings. He's 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA at Wrigley, so maybe being home will help. He beat the Padres on July 15 in San Diego. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.