Take it one problem at a time.
The defending World Series champions Chicago are still struggling to string consecutive wins, but after a tweak to their slumping offense, the Cubs have started to rake on the runs.
Anthony Rizzo, the newly ordained leadoff batter for the reigning champions, apparently enjoys his new spot in the order, reaching base for the fifth straight game and continuously igniting Chicago’s offense.
“It’s crazy,” said Rizzo of his leadoff spot after he hit a double to help the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1.
“It’s weird, it’s funny, but it’s great,” added the first baseman. “We’ve played better baseball, hit the ball better. It’s good to finally win a road series. It’s been a while.”
The Cubs have alternated wins and losses in their last five games, but they have scored 37 runs in that stretch for an average of 7.4 runs per match, compared to the five previous games before the tweak, where they scored only 13 runs for an average of 2.6 runs per fixture.
Rizzo, who has batted either third or fourth in his entire career for the Cubs, has been hitting .429 since the move, which is the best average among leadoff hitters with at least 20 plate appearances this season. In his last five games, Rizzo has two homeruns, one walk, one single and a double.
Maddon, who is credited with the reinvigoration of the Cubs offense because of his tweak, said the positive effects are all on Rizzo.
“It’s coinciding with him swinging the bat well,” said Maddon. “Plus, there’s the added incentive of doing it. He likes doing it.”
“Right now, we’re going to stay with it. I like it. I think it’s played well. I think it has inspired the lineup.”
The 27-year-old Rizzo is one of many Cubs’ whose offensive numbers took a dip this season, but his stats are starting to curve up as they go deeper into the season.
“It’s summertime. Time to hit,” said Rizzo, who also had the same struggles last year. Last season, Rizzo hit .218 in April, .250 in May and .357 in June.
The 6-foot-3, 240lbs slugger is hitting .365, with three homers and 13 runs-batted-in in 15 games this June.