It has not even been a week yet since Dale Sveum called out Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs first baseman has struggled mightily to keep his batting average over the .200 hump three weeks into the season. His inability to get on base more has been of concern, as it is a difficulty he experienced in his first Major League stint with the Padres.
But one area that has been a bright spot for the slugging lefty has been leading the team in home runs. He maintained that honor on Friday evening, hitting not one but a pair of two run homers to supply all of the offense for the visitors in Miami. What is even more promising is that both came against a left handed pitcher.
Apr 26, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After hitting 15 long balls in 87 games for the Cubs last year, Rizzo has eight in 22 games so far. He is on pace for 58 homers and 132 RBI while having a Carlos Pena like batting average. A more realistic goal would be to fall in the 25 to 30 HR range with 90 plus RBI (basically projecting out a season’s worth of stats from his 2012 numbers), while also working to get his average and OBP up to more respectable numbers. Both the fans and team have to remember that the youngster still has yet to play a full season in a year. If we can live with having Pena at first for one season, certainly we can put up with the growing pains of a 23 year old with high upside.
Lost in the shadows of Rizzo’s multi homer game was the 2 for 4 effort from Dave Sappelt. In fact the Cubs center fielder was along for the ride on both of the blasts by the Cubs first baseman. Sappelt’s evening at the plate is worth noting because this writer was ready to pull the plug on the 0 for Sappelt lead off man experiment against left handed starting pitchers so far this season. If Sappelt starts to take off this season, Friday’s game will be looked back on as the night he turned things around.
The Cubs starting center fielder was not the only under achiever that surprised in game two of the Marlins series. Scott Feldman had a solid outing, scattering seven hits and two walks just enough to hold the home team to two runs over six plus innings. The former Ranger flashed signs of improvement in his last appearance, and on Friday night he took it a step further to earn his first win of the season and first W as a Cub.
Other highlights included the Cubs bullpen shutting the door on the Marlins to preserve the win and a 3 for 3 night at the dish for Darwin Barney. The relief corps effort was capped off with a save by Kevin Gregg and the Cubs Gold Glove second baseman is starting to get his timing back in the batter’s box after recently returning from a DL stint. The Cubs won back to back games for the first time in 2013 and look to extend that to a three game winning streak on Saturday night, again in Miami.