Cubs: Joe Maddon sees a lot of Joey Votto in Anthony Rizzo


Cubs: Joe Maddon sees a lot of Joey Votto in Anthony Rizzo

When asked about Anthony Rizzo's latest hot streak, Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn't want to roll out the usual superlatives.

Instead, he paid the Cubs first baseman an even higher compliment, comparing Rizzo to Reds star Joey Votto.

Rizzo has been on fire lately, reaching base 28 times in his last 52 plate appearances, posting a .415/.538/.634 slash line in his last 11 games. He's been even better the past five games, reaching safely on 15 of 24 plate appearances. It helps that he's been hit by a pitch a league-leading six times.

[SHOP: Get an Anthony Rizzo jersey here]

That puts Rizzo atop the National League with a .493 on-base percentage entering play Saturday, drawing comparisons to the 2010 NL MVP.

"If you want to teach a young left-handed hitter how to break the shift, watch what [Rizzo] is doing right now," Maddon said. "Probably the best 'B-hack' — with two strikes — I've seen in a long time. He just makes adjustments.

"Votto's like that. Rizzo and [Votto] kind of resemble each other. When the at-bat gets deep, Votto will choke up, do different things. I really appreciate that about his at-bats.

"That's the thing I think young hitters just don't understand or work on enough. It's like one size fits all with their swings. They don't understand how to manipulate the bat head with their hands. I think Rizz does and I definitely know Votto does.

"That's how you eliminate shifting on left-handed hitters — teach them young how to utilize their hands and what to do when they get to two strikes. Those two lefties are really good at it."

[MORE: Unsung hero Jonathan Herrera impressing Maddon, Cubs]

Votto has earned a reputation as one of the most cerebral hitters in the game today, utilizing a laser focus at the plate and an incredible batting eye. He led the NL in OBP four years in a row from 2010-13 and still posted a .390 mark last season despite a .255 average as he struggled through injuries and played in just 62 games.

Votto may be 31, but he doesn't appear ready to pass the torch to 25-year-old Rizzo just yet. Votto is fifth in the NL with a .462 OBP, hitting .344 with six homers and 15 RBI.

Rizzo hasn't quite shown that power yet — with only three doubles and two homers on the season — but he does have three extra-base hits in the last two games, including a two-run homer in the series opener with the Reds Friday night.

After reaching base four times in five trips to the plate in Friday's victory, Rizzo broke down his recent hot stretch simply:

"It's just baseball," he said. "Just trying to do what I do every day and luckily, I'm getting good results right now."

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.

Cubs put Kyle Hendricks on 10-Day IL

Cubs put Kyle Hendricks on 10-Day IL

On Saturday, the Cubs announced that they are placing starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks on the 10-day I.L.with right shoulder inflammation. 

Following Hendricks' injury, the Cubs recalled right-handed pitcher Rowan Wick from Triple-A. Wick will be available on Saturday night and beyond, as the Cubs continue their four-game series against the Dodgers. 

This obviously a significant blow for the Cubs, as Hendricks is the team leader in innings pitched (88.1).

Prior to his loss on Friday night, Hendricks had won three straight outings, giving up less than 3 ER in each game. 

The Cubs have plenty of options to replace Hendricks for the time being. With an off day until Monday, they could keep their rotation intact. Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery are options, and the Cubs could push Hendricks next start back to by going with a spot starter. 

Stellar pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay is another intriuging option, and he is coming off of a great outing with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. On Fridaym he racked up 9 strikeouts, giving up 8 hits and 2 ER. 

The 24-year old Alzolay is ranked as the Cubs' fourth-overall prospect and the Hendricks injury could open the door for Alzolay to get called up.

The more likely scenario is that Cubs manager Joe Maddon chooses to use Chatwood. 

Chatwood is the only pitcher outside of the everyday rotation to have made a start this year and is the most obvious stopgap solution until we get further updates on Hendricks' status.