Hitting in the two hole for the first time in his professional career, first baseman Anthony Rizzo homered twice as Chicago fell to Washington, 11-6, on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
Cubs’ skipper Dale Sveum shook up the lineup card, looking to get some type of consistent production from an otherwise sickly lineup that has struggled of late at home. Despite the fact that Chicago is actually scoring more runs at Wrigley (4.2) per game than on the road (3.6), the team has garnered a great deal of negative press lately for their sporadic hitting.
Entering play Wednesday, the Cubs’ cornerstone first baseman was struggling mightily, now hitting just .231 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs, despite his impressive night. Those in the organization can only hope that Wednesday night’s performance was the turning of a corner, but only time will tell.
Chicago starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struggled in his third start as a member of the Cubs after coming over as part of the trade that sent pitcher Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles in early July. The right-hander lasted just four innings, allowing six earned runs on five hits, while walking four and striking out five.
Luckily for Arrieta, the Cubs’ offense rallied to score five times in the bottom of the fifth inning to get him off the hook for a loss. Rizzo, who homered in the bottom of the first, connected on his 20th long ball of the year with one out in the fifth, and cut the Washington lead to 6-3.
Junior Lake continued his impressive rookie season, singling to right field and prompting a mound visit and a pitching change. Nationals starter Ross Ohlendorf lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits, while striking out two and walking two. He allowed two home runs, both of which came from the bat of Rizzo.
Schierholtz singled off Nationals reliever Anthony Rendon, moving Lake to third. Red-hot Donnie Murphy singled to score Lake, and Brian Bogusevic continued the string of hits with a single of his own to load the bases.
Cole Gillespie pinch hit for Carlos Villanueva, who entered in place of Arrieta, and pitched a scoreless frame. Gillespie then singled to left, moving each runner up a base. Welington Castillo capped the five-run frame with a sac fly to center field that scored Murphy, tying the game at six.
The tie was broken by Nats’ outfielder Scott Hairston, who burned his former club with a three-run bomb that pushed the Washington advantage to 9-6, before Washington tacked on two more runs in the late innings.
Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs have hit .226 as a team, including a .241 mark in July and a disappointing .222 in the month of August. The team has scored in droves when hot, but were shut out in five of seven home games earlier this month.
Chicago will conclude the four-game series against Washington at Wrigley Field tomorrow at 1:20 p.m. CDT, before beginning a series on the west coast against San Diego on Friday night.