Anthony Rizzo will spend part of Monday scavenging for trunks and boxing gloves so he can dress up for the Cubs’ Halloween night flight to Cleveland.
But the Cubs first baseman already acted out several of Rocky Balboa’s most significant fights in the home clubhouse on Sunday night prior to a 3-2 Game 5 victory over the Cleveland Indians in front of 41,711 at Wrigley Field.
In an attempt to fire up his teammates, the three-time All-Star played several ‘Rocky’ movies on televisions throughout the clubhouse and shadowboxed with several teammates. The Cubs then extended their heavyweight bout with the Indians at least one more game with the first World Series victory at Wrigley Field since Game 6 of the 1945 Fall Classic. The Indians take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 when action resumes at 7:08 p.m. CST on Tuesday night.
“Just pulled it all out,” Rizzo said. “Got to put out the inspirational, underdog. We’re saying we’re going to battle, we’ve got to go the distance. There were some speeches in here, some motivational stuff.
“You’ve got to keep it loose.”
Loose was a priority as Rizzo said the nervous energy produced by a Wrigley crowd witnessing its first World Series in 71 years was palpable. Trailing 3-1 in the Series, Rizzo admitted Cubs fans weren’t the only ones with a case of the nerves.
“A lot of nervous energy at some points in the ballpark just like we were feeling,” Rizzo said.
But the Cubs fended off those emotions well enough to turn in an all-around crisp performance. Not only did they receive Herculean pitching efforts from Jon Lester and Aroldis Chapman, the defense ran on all cylinders. And then the middle of the order made its first significant impact since the fifth inning of Game 2.
Kris Bryant fired up his teammates and the crowd with a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Rizzo, who changed his walkup music to the theme from Rocky for his first at-bat, lined Trevor Bauer’s next pitch off the right-field fence for a double. When he reached second, ahead of a Ben Zobrist single, Rizzo shadowed boxed in the direction of the Cubs’ dugout.
It was the first time in the 2016 World Series the Cubs have strung together three consecutive hits and Addison Russell followed with an RBI single to drive in Rizzo and give them a 2-1 lead. Three batters later, a sac fly by David Ross gave the Cubs a two-run cushion they wouldn’t relinquish.
“They kind of put their pitcher on the ropes a little bit,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We had better at-bats. We got our three runs. Yes, all of that. That's kind of what happened in Los Angeles where all of a sudden we got that one big blow.
“It's incredible when you do that what it does to your team and what it does to the (opposing) pitcher. It's just part of the game. So you have to be able to punch and counter-punch all the time, and we were able to do that tonight.”
After it worked on Sunday, Rizzo joked he might seek out a boxing outfit for the final road trip of the season. Not that teams need a ton of motivation at this point in a season. But every little bit helps as Rizzo found out Sunday.
“We had to get the levels up and we had Rocky on every TV in here before,” Rizzo said. “Imitating the boxing matches, the fight.
“We’ve got to go the distance now and we’ve got to believe in it.”