First, Alfonso Soriano reached 100 RBIs for the third time in his career – and his first in a Cubs uniform – with a run scoring single in the first inning. Then Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez took center stage as he hit two towering home runs that flew past the left field stands onto Waveland Ave. Quite the achievement for a left-handed hitter.
But in the end, it was the Cubs’ young first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, whose career day would stand out.
“There were a lot of great things that happened in that game, obviously Rizzo’s day is spectacular,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I think Joe Mather's leadoff home run (in the sixth) got things going after we weren’t really doing anything. That inning snowballed into a five-run inning, and obviously Rizzo’s blast.”
Rizzo’s grand slam in the sixth inning was his second home run of the game and the blow that put the Cubs up for good at 10-9. Rizzo knocked in six runs on the day, something no Cub has accomplished since Aramis Ramirez did so on July 20, 2010.
“I didn’t know what they were saying and then I realized that’s what you do,” Rizzo said of the fans beckoning him for a curtain call after his decisive grand slam. “It was pretty cool.”
In 72 games with the Cubs, Rizzo has put up a .300/.352/.491 line with 14 home runs. That includes a stretch of 28 games from July 31 to Aug. 29 in which he struggled with a .231/.289/.279 mark and only three extra-base hits.
But with one big game on Sunday, Rizzo matched his home run total from a tough month of August.
“You work every day hard,” Rizzo said of bouncing back from his August struggles. “(There are) days you’re gonna feel good and days you’re not going to feel good, you just go with it. You go with the flow and understand that’s the nature of the game.”
Immediately following that rough patch, Rizzo has flowed into a stretch of 16 games in which he has an OPS of 1.095 with five home runs and five doubles. Sveum was happy to see that Rizzo was able to adjust and recover from his August doldrums.
“He went into that little lull and figured some other things out,” Sveum said. “Everything he’s done up here is obviously what we’ve expected. We don’t expect any more or any less, he’s been spectacular since he’s been here.”