Rizzo rakes in #ASGWorthy leadoff debut

First baseman earns second chance at top of order after 2-hit, 3-RBI game

June 13th, 2017

NEW YORK -- After hitting a leadoff home run, an RBI double and finishing with three RBIs Tuesday night in his first game ever batting first, Anthony Rizzo will be back at the top of the Cubs order on Wednesday.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn't have to think too long to answer that question after Rizzo helped spark the Cubs in a 14-3 romp over the Mets on Tuesday. Rizzo, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez each hit home runs in the win.

For the first time, Rizzo led off to start a Major League game, and he didn't disappoint, hitting the second pitch he saw from the Mets' Zack Wheeler for a home run to center field.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Rizzo and other #ASGWorthy players

"He sets a great example of how to work an at-bat," Maddon said of Rizzo. "It just worked out perfectly tonight."

According to Statcast™, Rizzo's home run had an exit velocity of 110 mph, and traveled a projected 462 feet to straightaway center. He's now hit safely in his last eight games, batting .423 (11-for-26) with four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs.

"I wanted to give it a roll," Maddon said about having Rizzo lead off. "Right now, the fact we're not hitting like we can, just see if he can get up there and provide a spark. Every time we do it in Spring Training, he responds well to it."

Rizzo found out when he got the lineup via text message Tuesday morning.

"I always mess around, saying, 'I'll lead off, I'll lead off,'" Rizzo said. "I also mess around and say, 'I can pitch and play the outfield,' too. Hopefully, I get to play the outfield one of these days."

Maddon wouldn't promise a relief appearance but did say Rizzo may get an inning in left field some day. That will have to wait.

Rizzo had never started in the leadoff spot, but on Sept. 13, 2011, his rookie year with the Padres, he did pinch-hit in the No. 1 spot for Anthony Bass against the Giants and struck out. On March 26 in Las Vegas this year in an exhibition game, Rizzo asked to lead off against the Reds, and launched the first pitch he saw from Tim Adelman for a home run.

"Riz is just getting on base like a maniac," Maddon said. "He'll take his walks. I do anticipate Happ and [Kyle] Schwarber getting back to normal really soon."

The Cubs' leadoff men had the worst composite batting average in the National League this season, but that was before Rizzo. He posted a .440 on-base percentage in 32 games since May 7 entering play Tuesday, the second-best mark in the NL in that span behind the Dodgers' Chase Utley (.442).

Rizzo is the seventh Cub to bat in the leadoff spot this year. Last season, it was primarily Dexter Fowler's job. Rizzo sent Fowler a text Tuesday to let him know who was leading off now for the Cubs.

"It'd be nice to settle in [with the lineup], there's no denying that," Maddon said. "I still believe Schwarbs is the best guy for the job among this group as he gets going well again. We'll continue to play it out."

Another reason Rizzo is leading off is that Ben Zobrist was promised a day off, Maddon said. Zobrist has been dealing with a sore left wrist, and it is apparently still bothering him.

A couple of the Cubs players did double takes when they saw Tuesday's lineup. Not starter Jon Lester.

"My reaction was, 'Why not?'" Lester said.

Why not, indeed.