A relaxed Rizzo sends Wrigley into a frenzy
July, 29, 2012
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAnthony Rizzo watches his home run Sunday, but he planned to watch ESPN to recall the moment.CHICAGO -- As Anthony Rizzo crossed the plate Sunday to put an end to the Chicago Cubs' victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, teammates swarmed him, delivering hearty pats to the back.
Rizzo emerged with a smile.
"I didn't feel anything," Rizzo said afterward with that smile still intact. "It was awesome."
The boy wonder, who has helped to solidify a struggling offense, delivered the biggest blow in his 27-game stint in the major-leagues with a game-ending home run to left field Sunday in the 10th inning.
It was the seventh home run of the season for Rizzo, and the first game-ender in his young career.
"I don't remember much. I don't remember anything. It was awesome," Rizzo said. "Teammates have been awesome. Paul (Maholm) pitched a great game today and kept us in it. We put ourselves in a position to win a couple times, and fortunately enough we did."
He plans on watching the replay tonight as many times as possible just to recall how it all happened.
"Oh yeah, I'll be watching that a lot," he said. "I can't wait to call my parents and talk to them. I'm sure they're excited and everyone who was following."
Rizzo isn't completely forgetful, just when the adrenaline is pumping through his body. While coming to the plate in the 10th inning, he remembered enough to not get too excited over the situation.
"Over my minor league career and last year and this year, later innings guys press a little harder, and I see a lot of veteran hitters throughout baseball always just relaxed at the plate, taking pitches and not being too aggressive," Rizzo said. "That's something I took into this at-bat. I'm always a little over-anxious in situations like that, and took a clean swing and let the rest take care of itself."
Rizzo took the first pitch out of the strike zone against Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal and then lifted a pitch on the outside part of the plate for his game-winner.
"It was nice this early in his career to get his first walk-off in big-time fashion and a home run too," manager Dale Sveum said. "It was nice especially off a guy throwing 97, 98 mph to take the first pitch and then go opposite field. He didn't try to do too much, just put a nice swing on it. It was awesome."
Since Rizzo's arrival the Cubs have been a whole different team. In the 73 games before he arrived the Cubs had 25 victories. Since Rizzo burst on the scene June 26, they have 17 victories and just 10 defeats.
"As soon as he got here the lineup got deeper, and it got better," Maholm said. "He's not up there just hacking. He's working the counts, going the other way, just hitting what they give him. They tried to go away from him in the 10th and he obviously got it enough. He's come up with some huge hits since he's gotten up."
His .333 batting average, seven home runs and 17 RBIs since June 26 lead all National League rookies. And the scary part is that he's only getting better.
"Every at-bat, very inning, every situation (I'm learning)," Rizzo said. "If I'm not at the plate, I learn from someone else and what they say. Even in the field, the situations, what goes on. I learn from watching ESPN, Baseball Tonight and all that stuff. This is a learning game and every day you have to pay attention."
Trying to stay unaffected by his second opportunity in the major leagues in his young career, Rizzo's motto has been "It's just baseball." The simplified approach has worked wonders.
So with a runner on first base and no outs in the 10th inning, was his first intention to make sure the runner got into scoring position no matter what happened?
"I don't really know," Rizzo admitted. "Thinking about it, just hit the ball hard. I'm not really trying to move him over in that situation, I'm trying to do some damage. My approach there is as simple as possible."
Afterward, Rizzo was still basking in the glow of his accomplishment.
"This is the best," he said. "This is something I've always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. I've never done it before. Not in the minors, not in Little League, not ever. ... This is awesome."