PHOENIX -- After struggling last season, Anthony Rizzo is enjoying a breakout year and fulfilling the promise expected of the young slugger when he was brought to Chicago a couple of years ago.
So it isn't fair to put too much pressure on the All-Star first baseman just as he has found himself, but the reality of the situation is that much of the Cubs' offense is going to live or die with Rizzo's production.
That was evident Friday in the Cubs' loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Rizzo emerged from the break with the same success at the plate that he had before heading to Minneapolis for his first All-Star Game.
His two home runs not only injected life within the club but accounted for three of the team's four runs. His two-run shot in the fourth inning opened the scoring and Chicago would build a 3-0 lead.
Arizona cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth, but Rizzo's second blast in the sixth gave the Cubs a two-run cushion and a little more breathing room, even if it was only temporary. The Diamondbacks led 5-4 when Rizzo nearly tied the score in the eighth inning but a fine defensive play robbed him of a likely RBI double in the left center field gap.
"Rizz had an All-Star night. Two home runs," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "We didn't get a whole lot more after that, but we had a chance to get the tying run in there."
After enjoying his ninth multihomer game of his career, and second this season, Rizzo has 22 home runs, leaving him only one shy of his career high; he belted 23 in 160 games last season. He is also tied for fourth in the majors in that category.
So while Rizzo figures to remain the Cubs' lone power threat in the lineup, he is on the cusp of a career-best year that can bring some enjoyment to Cubs fans during an otherwise difficult season.