Rizzo vows to avoid 100-loss season

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
5:43
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo says the Chicago Cubs have plenty to play for and he’s determined to help lead the team to a solid finish in September.

Rizzo has returned strong from a recent slump and subsequent day off with three extra-base hits over the past two days, including a home run Friday, his first in 26 days.

“I was hearing it from all angles in here,” Rizzo said in the postgame locker room Friday. “Right now it’s nice to kind of get that off my back.”

[+] EnlargeAnthony Rizzo
David Banks/US PRESSWIREAnthony Rizzo is greeted by Starlin Castro after hitting a home run in the fifth on Friday.
There is something else that seems to be weighing on him even more, though. He might not have been here from the start of the year, but Rizzo is well aware of the Cubs record this season and has no intention of seeing the 50-80 club finish with 100 losses.

“I know it’s something that I don’t want to be part of,” he said. “I think the magic number is down to 12 wins now. I was talking about it today. We’re not going to lose 100 games. That’s something we’re all motivated not to do.

The Cubs have lost at least 100 games only twice in club history.

The rallying cry to not lose 100 games may or may not have originated from Rizzo, but his desire to talk about it openly to the media and to his teammates shows some leadership skills are emerging.

“The last month we want to win,” he said. “We want to play .500 baseball in September and everybody in here wants to finish strong. It’s cliché but we want to build as much momentum in September to take into spring training and move forward.”

A week ago, though, Rizzo was struggling so much at the plate he seemed to be in no position to have his vocal desires heard. But just like that, his three extra-base hits in two games doubled his output for the entire month.

His last home run came Aug. 5 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. A positive sign for moving forward is that when he has shown struggles at the plate all it seems to take is a single game out of the starting lineup to turn around his fortunes.

After going 1-for-9 in a doubleheader at Cincinnati two weekends ago, Rizzo was out of the lineup only to return the next day and get two hits. On Tuesday against the Brewers he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, sat back and watched the next day and returned Thursday with two doubles before his home run Friday.

“I think it’s just (manager) Dale (Sveum) knowing the guys,” Rizzo said. “He knows. We talk all the time. He knows where I was at. This game will get to you and it builds up. You just take that day off, relax, watch from a bird’s eye view and learn a thing or two.”

Rizzo ended the month batting .252, but appears back on track now and with a whole lot of inspiration heading in to September.

“You just keep going every day, keep working and don’t take any days off,” he said.

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .290
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
ERAT. Wood 4.81
SOJ. Arrieta 135