Rizzo's blast pushes Cubs past Astros


Rizzo's blast pushes Cubs past Astros

Anthony Rizzo stepped in against Houston starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning Saturday for another sure-to-be-scrutinized at-bat. Rizzo struck out looking in the first, and his fourth-inning flyout elicited roars from the crowd of 37,906 at Wrigley Field, only to be caught just in front of the warning track.
But in the sixth, Rizzo ripped Happ's fastball 398 feet, sailing a home run over the right field ivy at Wrigley Field for the first time.
"It just feels good to get that win and get that monkey off my back hitting a home run and this and that," Rizzo said.
The Cubs are hoping it's the start of something great, even if the over-analysis of Rizzo's every move has begun to grow tired.
"The sort of daily watch of how he's doing is probably not a great thing for anybody," general manager Jed Hoyer said prior to Saturday's game. "I think just let him play, look up and hope the numbers will be there a year from now."
But even in just four games, Rizzo has already delivered two game-winning hits. On Saturday, Rizzo helped push his team to a 3-2 win and send the crowd home happy -- and probably soaked from sweat, as Matt Garza said it felt like he was wearing "a suit of water" thanks to the humid, 90-degree conditions.
Rizzo struck out in the seventh with runners at the corners and one out, as Houston decided to intentionally walk Starlin Castro to set up a double play chance with Rizzo. Manager Dale Sveum liked Rizzo's at-bat, noting he fouled off a few tough sliders from lefty Fernando Abad, but also took the time to note there's still plenty of room for growth in Rizzo's plate approach.
"I think a guy like him, you can tell he wants those RBIs too, and is probably going to be a little more aggressive, but he's also taking his walks too," Sveum said. "He's also 22 years old, let's not forget how young he is. We've already gone over this stuff about young hitters walking 100 times, it just doesn't happen. It takes a little time for hitters to get to that 80 to 100 walk pace."
Still everyone was reminded of Rizzo's offensive potential on the final day of June. But defensively, the Cubs have similarly high expectations. Rizzo flashed his defensive skills in the third inning, charging a slow chopper to his right, fielding it cleanly and firing a strike to Geovany Soto to nab Houston's Scott Moore at home plate.
"That's my go-to place," Rizzo said of his defense. "Hitting's going to come and go but fielding's going to be the consistent thing I pride myself on all the time. That's where I go to."
"He's a really good defender," Hoyer explained. "He made too many errors in Triple-A, and that's something we need to work with him on, but as far as soft hands, picking balls, throwing, he's going to be a really good defender in the big leagues. I don't think there's any question about that."
The nine errors Rizzo made with Triple-A offer room for improvement, but most accounts have him as someone who is an asset with the glove. Baseball Prospectus' minor league guru Kevin Goldstein agreed with Hoyer's evaluation, noting Rizzo has good hands and footwork, although his range is somewhat limited due to his large frame.
Garza did his part to pull Rizzo out of the spotlight, at least for a moment. As the first baseman was being interviewed on the TV broadcast of the game after its conclusion, Garza raced up and shoved a shaving cream pie into the camera and snatched the headset away from Rizzo.
"Get that guy out of the limelight a little bit," Garza said. "Hes doing his thing. Just let him enjoy it. You only get to make a debut as a Cub one time. Hes doing a great job producing and doing what he does. Let the guy enjoy it. Hes going to be a great one. Let him enjoy it and there will be a lot of time in front of the camera. Right now let him enjoy it, let him enjoy this ride and lets take this nice little attitude we have going on into tomorrow."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'


Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."