Cubs Top Padres 3–2

Hector Rondon, Koji Uehara, and Wade Davis hold Padres scoreless over final three innings to help Cubs win.

Anthony Rizzo has been playing baseball like he’s in Little League again(Nick Pipitone via Flickr)

I’m not sure Anthony Rizzo is the answer to the Cubs season long search to replace Dexter Fowler at the top of the batting order. But one certainly can not argue the results. Not to mention he’s playing with the enthusiasm of a little leaguer. It can’t help but energize this 2017 squad as they have “embraced the suck” and continue to grind out enough wins to stay within a victory or two of first place in the Central Division. But more than anybody who has hit in the top spot, Rizzo has provided the “you go, we go” results.

Since June 13th when Joe Maddon inserted Rizzo in the one hole he’s hit 11–25 with two doubles, a triple, and three homeruns. He’s knocked in nine runs. Most importantly the Cubs have won four of the six games in that stretch and scored 40 runs. For a team that had been struggling to score runs and find production at the top, this might just be the spark they need moving forward to climb back to the top of the division. Irregardless of how unorthodox it is.

Former Cub Clayton Richard and lefty Jon Lester squared off in the series opener at Wrigley Field in front of a Monday night crowd of 40,802.

On the third Lester pitch of the game Jose Pirela took the southpaw deep to center, giving the Friars an early 1–0 lead.

In the bottom of the first the Padres put the shift on for Rizzo and he retaliated by dropping down a perfect bunt to the third base side of the infield. But nothing manifested from it as Ian Happ grounded into a 4–6–3 twin killing and Kris Bryant grounded out 5–3.

Yangervis Solarte pushed the Padres lead to 2–0 in the top of the third when he hit a ball into the bleachers in left.

In the bottom half of the inning the Cubs cut the lead to 2–1 on an Almora Jr. walk and a Rizzo sac fly.

Anthony Rizzo led off the sixth with a triple to right field. After Ian Happ struck out, Kris Bryant lined out to Matt Szczur in center. Rizzo tagged up on the play and did not slide at the plate as the ball and Austin Hedges were waiting for him. Rizzo sort of dropped to one knee and plowed into the Padres backstop. Hedges fell backward but held on for the out. He then left the game with a bruised thigh. San Diego manager Andy Green was none too pleased with the play.

Padres skipper Andy Green(luvsd via Flickr)

”I think you look at that play and it’s a fairly egregious violation of the rule,” Green said. ”The rule exists to protect the catcher. The safety of the catcher is more in jeopardy now when you have the rule to protect you because you’re not expecting to get hit when you give a guy a plate like that.

”That’s a cheap shot. I’m not saying he’s a dirty player at all — nobody is saying that — but he clearly deviated from his path to hit our catcher, took our catcher out. Rule exists to protect him. It’s a disheartening play to see come about like that.”

The Cubs disagreed with Green’s assessment.

”It’s one of those plays where it’s very sensitive,” Rizzo said. ”It’s a play where I’m out by two steps. If I slide, he runs into me. I’ve talked to a lot of umpires about this rule. It’s my understanding if they have the ball, it’s game on.”

Maddon agreed with Rizz.

“You don’t see it anymore because the runner thinks he has to avoid (the catcher) — he doesn’t,” Maddon said. “If the guy’s in the way, you’re still able to hit him. I’d much prefer what Riz did tonight. What he did was right, absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with that and nobody can tell me differently.”

Hector Rondon relieved Lester in the top of the seventh and promptly hit Matt Szczur. But Contreras helped Rondon out by cutting the former Cub outfielder down trying to steal second. Rondon then walked Clayton Richard. Jose Pirela followed that with a single, moving Richard to second. The big righty then struck out Solarte for the first out. But he walked Wil Myers to load the bases. He wriggled off the hook however, getting Hunter Renfroe to fly out to Almora Jr. in center.

In the bottom half of the seventh on a 1–2 count Wilson Contreras took Clayton Richard out to right and tied the game at 2. After Tommy LaStella grounded out, the Padres went to their bullpen for right hander Kirby Yates. Javy Baez greeted him with a single to right. Almora Jr. followed with a double to right and when Jose Pirela misplayed the ball, it allowed Baez to score from first and give the Cubs the lead, 3–2.

Koji Uehara pitched around a single in the eighth inning to maintain the slim one run margin.

Wade Davis came on in the bottom of the ninth, looking for his 15th save of the year. Cory Spangenberg grounded one off of Davis’ glove to Baez who tossed to Rizzo for the first out. Davis then hit Jose Pirela and on a wild pitch he advanced to second. Solarte walked and Davis uncorked another wild one, advancing the tying and go ahead runs to second and third. But Davis struck out Wil Myers and induced a game ending ground out from Hunter Renfroe and the Cubbies held on for a 3–2 win.

The win moved the second place Cubs to 35–34, 1.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers. Anthony Rizzo extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.

Cubs LHP Mike Montgomery (0–3, 2.56 ERA) goes in the middle game of the series and will face Padres RHP Jhoulys Chacin (6–5, 5.10).

Doug Preszler is the type of person who can be a Cubs fan and an Iowa fan while living in South Dakota. He is a man who cares not for regional loyalty. He can be found on Twitter @PreszlerDoug, telling tales of the Dakotan Cubs fan’s existence.