CHICAGO – Hitting cleanup for the first time since July 11, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo provided the spark the Cubs’ bats needed Wednesday. Rizzo hit an opposite-field, two-run home run in the first inning against the Brewers at Wrigley Field, leading to an 8-4 Cubs win.
It was the first time the Cubs had scored more than four runs in eight days.
“It was nice coming up to the plate with a runner on in the first inning,” said Rizzo, who hit in the leadoff spot in his previous 27 starts.
“His home run just hit another gear,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You could see from the sidelines, I thought it was a wall ball. Then it just kind of stayed up.”
The Cubs added two runs in the third and three in the fourth. Jason Heyward provided an RBI hit in each inning, finishing his day 3 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs. Rizzo added another RBI on a single in the fourth. Albert Almora Jr. hit a solo home run in the seventh. Even Addison Russell, who had one RBI in August entering Wednesday, contributed an RBI single.
“That’s who we need to be,” Maddon said. “We need to be that group. We need to be tougher to strike out. We need to not pull up pitches or expand [the zone] and give the other team some escape patches. We’ve got to get away from that. That would be our best way to get that swarm offense going again that I think could carry us all the way.”
Meanwhile, Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who has had an up and down season, turned in one of his better performances. Hendricks struck out eight over six innings, allowing four earned runs and walking two.
For Hendricks, it all started with the fastball.
“Fastball command was really good,” Hendricks said. “I was getting ahead of guys, and then the changeup [worked] right off it. That’s always the key for me: fastball command.”
Milwaukee scored two runs in the fourth, sparked by back-to-back doubles from Travis Shaw and Jonathan Schoop. Hendricks escaped the inning without further damage. Then the Cubs piled on three runs in the bottom half of the inning.
“After giving up those two in the fourth, it was huge for us to come back and score those runs right there,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks threw 93 pitches. He returned to the mound in the seventh, but Maddon pulled him after allowing a single and a walk to lead off the inning. Both runners wound up scoring as Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. failed to escape the inning and loaded the bases.
Justin Wilson came in for one out before Steve Cishek finished the inning, stranding three runners.
Almora provided his homer in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead again.
“We’re doing a really good job of putting together good at-bats,” Almora said. “That’s all we really can control. The game of baseball is so unfair at times. You can have good at-bats, and you’re out. There’s just a lot of factors that go into it. Today Kyle was locked in, we had a couple runners on and had some breaks as well.”
With the victory, the Cubs and Brewers split the two-game series at Wrigley. The Cubs pushed their division lead to three games over Milwaukee. The two clubs play two more three-game series in September, one in each ballpark.