Monday, March 31, 2014
Cubs, Rizzo looked a lot like 2013 in opener
By Jesse Rogers
PITTSBURGH -- Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is trying to see the positive after his team was shut out 1-0 over 10 innings on Opening Day against the Pittsburgh Pirates
The Cubs got on base and had runners in scoring position, then stalled in the most important area: getting them home.
“We had our opportunities,” Rizzo said after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. “It’s about capitalizing on them. We can hang our hat on that. One of the best pitchers and we had our opportunities against him.”
Yes, lefty starter Francisco Liriano is one of the better pitchers in the game, but he only lasted six innings. The Cubs had four more chances against the Pirates' bullpen and still came up short.
“I thought we had some good at-bats, but we just weren’t able to get them in,” Rick Renteria said.
The new manager better get used to it because the Cubs' offense looked very similar to last season: Getting the big hit eluded them more often than not. They ranked dead last with men on base in 2013, hitting just .218 as a team. They were 0-for-11 on Monday in those situations.
But Renteria and Rizzo aren’t giving in to the notion it’s the same old Cubs.
“We’re a very confident group. There is a lot of energy in the clubhouse. Even after this loss,” Rizzo said.
Maybe it won’t be same old Cubs when you consider new leadoff man, Emilio Bonifacio, had four hits and the Cubs did have more chances then their opponent.
But will it be the same old Rizzo? He hit just .191 with men in scoring position last season and .233 overall. He drew the ire of Cubs fans for those numbers. Striking out twice on Monday with a man on second base in a scoreless game isn’t going to do him any favors. Rizzo says he’s still learning.
“Just slow the game down in those situations,” he said. “I know what he’s going to attack me with. It’s about seeing it and putting the barrel on it. I didn’t come through, but that’s the position I want to be in.”
If we could fast forward to when the Cubs have a contending team and know that Rizzo’s struggles were worth it, then you could live with some current failures. But there are many who believe Rizzo isn’t the answer. It’s still way too early to tell. He just played the first game beginning his second full year in the big leagues.
“I had three opportunities to drive in a run but it's Game 1 of 162,” he stated.
Between that obvious notion and the fact that Liriano is one of the better lefties in the game, Rizzo might get a pass for Opening Day. But he’ll need to come through more often than not to win back some fans he’s lost.
“He was Liriano,” Rizzo said. “You come in and that’s what you expect. He’s one of the best in the game. It’s good to see the best slider [and] curveball in the game, so hopefully everyone else looks a little bit easier.”