Cubs walk it off again, sweep Dodgers
Another day, another walk-off hit for the Cubs.
Anthony Rizzo was the hero this time, lacing a 2-out single in the bottom of the 11th as the Cubs beat the Dodgers 6-5.
Things looked bleak for the Cubs in the as they trailed by one with two outs in the 11th and Willson Contreras still on second. Matt Duffy delivered with an RBI single that scored Contreras and tied the game. Tony Wolters walked and with a 1-2 count, Rizzo delivered his 7th career walk-off hit with a single to left that brought in Duffy to win.
“It’s just nice to be in that situation,” Rizzo said. “Duffy tying the game up and then Tony Wolters with a really good at-bat, laying off good sliders. To be up in that situation and obviously hit it where they’re not standing worked out this time and it feels good going into the off day.”
It wasn’t the situation Rizzo or David Ross planned on having him in. Thursday was scheduled to be an off day for Rizzo and Ross was only going to turn to him “with the game on the line.”
With a tight game late, Rizzo figured it would come to that. So he left the Cubs bench, stepped in the hot tub to warm up, then entered the cage and got ready for a potential appearance. It came in the 10th inning when he came on as a defensive replacement at first base. Then came his opportunity to play hero.
“Just simplifying things, that’s what he’s so good at,” Ross said. “He’s got power but he also knows how to choke up and put the ball in play and that’s a huge value that he brings.”
It was the first time the Cubs had back-to-back walk-off wins since Sept. 15-16, 2020 against Cleveland.
When Jake Arrieta speaks with Adbert Alzolay, he talks to him in the form of relatable experiences. Arrieta tries to get Alzolay to harken back on past performances to get him through each start.
“With Adbert, I talked to him at length about just continuing to take bits and pieces from each outing and ingrain it in your mind, so moving forward you have those things to lean on,” Arrieta said. “I tell him all the time that there’s 15-20 pitches that are heavily ingrained in my mind that I can lean back on and understand the way it felt, what it looked like, what my body felt like at release, how my balance was.”
Arrieta believes that’s the key in helping Alzolay take the next step in his development. Maybe that’s why Alzolay’s slider has been so effective. In Wednesday night’s win against the Dodgers, Alzolay picked up 7 strikeouts in 5 innings, with 4 of them coming off his slider.
“I feel really good,” Alzolay said. “Overall, I feel that we executed the game plan that we had before the game.”
Alzolay’s slider is quickly becoming one of the premier pitches on the Cubs’ pitching staff. Entering Wednesday’s game, opposing hitters were batting just .114 off the slider and slugging .136.
That’s a credit to the approach he’s taking each time he takes the mound.
“He’s very vocal, very cerebral with the way he approaches each start and he works incredibly hard,” Arrieta said.
Being a student of the game helps in that.
“I pretty much look at everything,” Alzolay said. “I’m pretty good with details. I’m always looking to see, if I threw the pitch where I wanted to.
“As a pitcher, you pick different spots with your pitches. For me, it’s huge right now that I’m more able to get to those spots more often now.”
Against the Dodgers, he attacked the vaunted Dodger lineup, striking out former MVP Mookie Betts twice and pitching 5 solid innings that kept the Cubs in the game against the Dodgers. His first mistake came when he fell behind in the count against Max Muncy and the L.A first baseman grooved a 2-1 two-seam fastball into the left center field bleachers.
He allowed an RBI double to Gavin Lux in the 5th inning but worked out of any more potential damage by inducing a groundout to Walker Buehler and a flyout to Betts. It was the type of performance they needed going up against Buehler, who allowed just 2 runs in 6 innings and struck out 8.
He exited the game in the 5th inning, when he was due up to bat, with what Ross and Alzolay described as slight dizziness. He mentioned after the game that he only felt the symptoms for “like 20 seconds,” but Ross erred on the side of caution with the youngster.
“I didn’t feel comfortable when I found out he was dizzy sending him up there to the plate didn’t make a whole lotta sense,” Ross said. “So we made the move then and went with [Ildemaro Vargas].”