Batting Anthony Rizzo leadoff Thursday afternoon wasn’t the only reason the Cubs walked away with a much-needed win, but it was a reason. After drawing a walk to open the game, Rizzo scooted to third on a Kyle Schwarber single and came home on a sac fly from Kris Bryant. While those manufactured runs aren’t as sexy as the ones that come from homers, they’re just as effective.
And in the case of their finale in San Diego, the Cubs getting on the board early — and in a situation that has vexed them the previous evening — made a big difference. Since you’ve probably already compartmentalized the memory, I’ll remind you that Rizzo tripled to lead off the 2nd and remained there the rest of the inning. That he was not sent home on a fly from Bryant made this latest play that much more fitting.
It was a rare solid effort for the Cubs, whose production out of the leadoff spot this season has been embarrassing to say the least. Ben Zobrist provided an immediate spark upon his return from the restricted list, but he’s been out of the lineup since fouling a ball of his knee and airmailing throws to second, so Joe Maddon summoned the Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time. Rizzo did almost nothing other than that walk the rest of the game, but his overall performance was a fair sight better than actually nothing.
That’s why he’ll be back in the same spot Friday when the Cubs return home to face Steven Brault and the Pirates. Because they’re trying to keep Zobrist batting From the left side as often as possible, facing a southpaw means he’ll get another day off. And though Rizzo hasn’t maintained his lauded reverse splits of the past, his .366 OBP against lefties is nearly 40 points higher than the Cubs have managed from the leadoff spot in general this season.
Who knows, maybe he’ll tattoo Brault and add to a resume that would impress even Rickey Henderson.