Joe Maddon sees good things coming for slumping Anthony Rizzo

Joe Maddon sees good things coming for slumping Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs have won four of the six postseason games they've played despite very little production from their three and five hitters.

After an 0-for-3 performance in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers Saturday night, Anthony Rizzo is now just 1-for-23 in the playoffs (.043 AVG) with a .197 OPS. 

He drew a four-pitch walk against Clayton Kershaw, but other than that, all of Rizzo's production has come in one game - two walks and a single in the Game 4 comeback victory against the San Francico Giants in the NLDS. He was a key to that ninth inning rally, drawing a walk after Kris Bryant led off the inning with a single. 

Addison Russell hasn't fared any better - only 1-for-22 with a hit-by-pitch - while hitting in the five-hole. 

But while Russell had a fine regular season (21 homers, 95 RBI), he's still only 22 and in just his second big-league campaign. 

Rizzo, meanwhile, posted a .928 OPS during the regular season and is probably Bryant's main competition the NL MVP voting.

Joe Maddon sees good things coming for Rizzo.

"It's always going to be described as pressing, whatever, but I think he's fouling his pitch off. Classic," Maddon said before Sunday's Game 2. "The pitch that he likes is going straight back. It's not contacted going forward. 

"And then beyond that, he might be chasing a little bit outside of the zone. Those are like the classic indicators. I can't tell you there's anything wrong with his mechanics. I just think everybody goes through these particular moments."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Rizzo nearly homered off Kershaw Sunday night, yanking a pitch just a few feet to the side of the right-field foul pole.

"Yeah, today I felt a lot better," he said. "Just missed pitches that felt like I was there. One pitch, one at-bat kinda locks you in and that's how I felt tonight. Just didn't come up with results."

Rizzo insists he's not pressing or putting more pressure on himself to perform, taking solace in how he's endured through slumps in the past.

"I can't. I don't think it's fair to everyone if I try to get six, seven hits at one time," he said. "I've done that before in my career and it doesn't work. You just go about the process and keep grinding and keep battling."

Regardless of what he's done at the plate, Rizzo has been a steadying presence in the field, making a diving stop early in Game 1 against the Dodgers and then ending the contest by snaring a line drive and doubling up a runner off second base.

At the end of the day, the Cubs got through the NLDS with the Giants completely shutting down Rizzo and head into L.A. with a 1-1 tie in the NLCS.

At some point, Rizzo will get going and the Cubs are operating under that mindset.

"The fact that we're able to fight through him not being normal at the plate right now is good belief for us, but I really anticipate you're going to see that in the near future," Maddon said. "Nothing different. Again, it's just one of those moments."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound


Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.