Notebook: Rizzo, Cubs fighting through frustration of the moment
ST. LOUIS — Before Wednesday night’s game against the Cardinals, Anthony Rizzo told David Ross it was as good as he’s felt in a while.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, that good feeling didn’t translate into results as Rizzo went 0-for-5 and committed a baserunning gaffe in the 10th inning.
As the Cubs were putting together another 9th-inning comeback, Rizzo came up with the bases loaded and hit a 103 mph groundball but right into the shift to end the threat.
“He smoked that ball to [Cardinals second baseman Tommy] Edman,” David Ross said. “That’s just kind of bad luck. If we can recreate that at-bat on a consistent basis, he’s gonna be fine. It only takes one or two to fall and you get a couple to start going and you get that confidence building and you can roll.”
In Thursday’s 3-2 loss in the series finale in St. Louis, Rizzo went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
He has been grinding this month (.204 average, .631 OPS) after returning from a back injury that kept him out of the lineup for the final couple days of June.
“It’s just not coming,” Rizzo said. “I feel fine, body feels fine. But just gotta keep grinding, gotta keep playing baseball.”
He even went without batting gloves for an at-bat in the middle of Wednesday’s game.
“When you get into ruts, you do whatever it takes,” he said.
For Rizzo and the entire Cubs roster, the threat of trades and the uncertainty of what the next week will bring is hanging over everything right now.
That can lead to players pressing, especially at the plate. The Cubs went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position Wednesday night and felt like they could’ve capitalized in more offensive opportunities.
“Some of it may be just trying a little bit harder when things aren’t going well,” Ross said. “I think that’s natural. The offense has been something that we’ve been trying to figure out really all season except for that month where we were doing much better.
“Overall, I think it’s just a product of trying to push the envelope and make some things happen when we haven’t been going offensively.”
Ross commended his team for continuing to fight down to the last out Wednesday night and putting together a bunch of quality plate appearances in the 9th inning. But he also wants to see that same approach and sense of urgency earlier in games.
Three times over the last week, the Cubs entered the 9th inning trailing but battled back to tie the game. On Saturday in Arizona and Tuesday in St. Louis, they finished the rally and wound up winning the game.
“Just having that same mentality of what you want to do, what your plan is going into that moment,” Ross said. “Whatever that is — each individual guy is probably a little bit different of how they want to attack that. That’s somewhere where we can improve — pushing that extra run across has really been great because whether it’s Arizona or here, we find ourselves in a ballgame a lot late.”
The Cubs made a roster move Thursday, but it wasn’t the one most were expecting. Ross had been saying all week Matt Duffy would be activated from the 60-day IL ahead of Thursday’s game but the team opted for another bullpen arm instead, calling up Trevor Megill and sending Sergio Alcántara to Triple-A Iowa.
Duffy is expected to be activated ahead of Friday afternoon’s game against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs bullpen has been used quite a bit of late and Megill provides another right-handed option for Ross against a Cardinals lineup that is very righty-heavy.
Megill, 27, has an 18.00 ERA and 4.00 WHIP in 5 appearances with the Cubs this season but almost all of that damage came in one outing against the Brewers on June 28 when he gave up 6 runs and did not record an out.
When Duffy is activated off the IL, the Cubs will need to make a corresponding 40-man roster move.
Kris Bryant was unavailable for Wednesday night’s game with hamstring fatigue. Ross said before Thursday’s series finale he expects the All-Star to be available off the bench and back in the lineup Friday.
The Cubs had a pinch-hit opportunity with the game hanging in the balance in the 10th inning Wednesday night and Ross sent backup catcher Robinson Chirinos to bat with Bryant unavailable.
“It’s like holding a deck of cards knowing I can’t use the ace,” Ross said. “But I know why. That’s the human side. I’m never going to put somebody in harm’s way.
“Protecting your guys, whether it’s talking to you guys or not using them in a game or putting them in a situation where they could hurt themselves, I’ve learned valuable lessons in this seat. Having somebody sit out a day or two is much better than 10 to 15 to 20 to a month. It’s just not worth it.”