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So far, so good for Rizzo and Castro

5/1/2014

CINCINNATI -- The two faces of the Chicago Cubs' franchise put an exclamation mark on the first month of the season with a productive and dominant performance at the plate in the Cubs' 9-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday. Fans of the Cubs' rebuilding project should be thrilled: Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro might just be back to their old selves.

"It's about trying not to do too much," Rizzo said after the game. "Especially against lefties. You can't be yanking stuff. Stay up the middle or the other way."

Rizzo practiced what he preached in hitting a first-inning home run to left-center off lefty Tony Cingrani. He walked in each of the next four at-bats to become only the second Cub -- Hee Seop Choi is the other -- to have a night like that in over 100 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Rizzo is just fine with that, because the hottest hitter on the team is now hitting behind him: Castro.

"Especially the way he's swinging the bat," Rizzo said of taking walks. "It's fun to watch him. Just take what they give me."

Castro went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a walk to go along with Rizzo's night. Combined, the two were on base nine times in 10 plate appearances. Rizzo finished the month with a .407 on-base percentage, and Castro leads the team with 14 RBIs while raising his batting average to .308 after Wednesday's win.

"I'm not thinking as much at the plate," Castro said recently. "Just going up and hitting."

That's the same observation Rizzo has of him.

"He's back to being himself," he said.

Rizzo isn't always the most talkative when it comes to hitting, but you sense a maturity in him. Patience at the plate, going the other direction and taking what lefties will give him are just some of what he has done this month.

"The more I continue to play this game the more selective I'll be, if walks come with [it], they do," he said.

Are they back to being the stars that everyone envisioned when they first came up? One month is way too early to know, but it's also the time to set the tone for the rest of the season. If Rizzo and Castro are back, then the rebuilding of the Cubs can continue.