It didn’t take Anthony Rizzo long to get back to his usual self in his return from a lower back injury that sidelined him for two-and-a-half weeks.
In the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night, the young slugger cracked a walk-off solo home run to center field, sending the Chicago Cubs to a 1-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds in his first game back in the lineup.
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Rizzo clubbed the blast, his 31st of the season, on a 1-0 pitch from Pedro Villarreal (0-1, 4.35 ERA) to lead off the ninth for Chicago (66-84), which won the first game of a series for the first time Sept 1. The left-handed swinging Rizzo accounted for two of his team’s six hits, also striking out twice.
Cubs starter Travis Wood was dominant, despite not factoring into the decision. The southpaw, who has struggled all season for Chicago, scattered three hits across six innings, striking out four and walking two. A trio of relievers –Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (4-4, 2.67 ERA) – followed suit after a tumultuous past week or so for Ricky Renteria’s bullpen.
Cincinnati (71-80) got a stellar start from Alfredo Simon, who allowed just five hits and one walk in seven innings of work. Neither team recorded an extra-base hit apart from the Rizzo home run that ended the contest. Chicago was just 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position, and the Reds were 0-for-3 in similar situations.
Javier Baez‘s struggles at the plate continued, as the rookie infielder struck out twice as part of an 0-for-4 night. He is now batting .173 this season for Chicago. Jorge Soler went 1-for-3, and Arismendy Alcantara and Logan Watkins both added singles, as well.
Cincinnati tallied just three hits in the contest, but drew five walks against Chicago pitching.