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Thursday, August 22, 2013
Rizzo is bright spot in loss to Nats

By Bruce Levine

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum made a key move before Wednesday's game by moving up struggling shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the top of the batting order.

Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo, left, is congratulated by teammate Nate Schierholtz after a first-inning home run. Rizzo hit two homers in Wednesday's game against the Nationals.
The move paid off, as Rizzo hit two home runs and was on base four times, though the Cubs lost to the Washington Nationals, 11-6.

Despite the team's better display on offense, Cubs pitching could not match the success. Starter Jake Arrieta had his worst performance as Cub, giving up six runs in his four innings of work. Jayson Werth's three-run home run in the third inning was the telling blow in Arrieta's below-par outing.

"I didn't do my job tonight," Arrieta said. "I had enough weapons to pitch our team deep into the game. I wasn't able to do it."

Arrieta had entered the game with a 0.69 ERA after two outstanding starts. A lack of command did him in, as he gave up two three-run innings to Washington.

"The ball wasn't coming out of his hand [properly] all day," Sveum said of Arrieta's pitching mechanics. "Even down in the bullpen, [pitching coach Chris] Bosio said it was not coming out like it had been."

The offense, led by Rizzo's second home run of the game, scored five runs in the fifth inning, which earned an appreciative Arrieta a no-decision.

"The only gain was from a team perspective," Arrieta said. "We had a huge fifth inning and put up a five-spot. That is a tremendous job of our guys battling, getting us back in the game."

Rizzo and Castro took extra batting practice before the game to try and snap out of a collective slump that had grown to 3-for-51 on the homestand. Rizzo was tagged out rounding third base in the ninth inning to end the game. Rizzo had a miscommunication with third base coach David Bell as the Cubs were mounting a rally with two outs against Nats closer Rafael Soriano.

"There are two outs and every at-bat counts," Rizzo said. "I was on second base and said I have to get a good jump if [Brian] Bogusevic gets a hit. First he waived me and he hesitated at the end and held me up."

On the positive side, Rizzo had his second two-homer game of the month and fourth of his career. He became the second-youngest left-handed Cubs hitter to hit at least 20 home runs by age 24. Billy Williams was 23 when he hit 25 in 1961.

"It will be a great year wherever I end up from a learning standpoint," Rizzo said. "To grow up and mature, it will be a great year no matter what."