Cubs

Rizzo's 2 homers, 4 RBIs lead Cubs to rout of Reds

Rizzo's 2 homers, 4 RBIs lead Cubs to rout of Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) Anthony Rizzo drove in four runs with his 10th career two-homer game, Jason Hammel pitched six scoreless innings and the Chicago Cubs routed the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 on Sunday to improve to 14-5 for the first time in 47 years.

Tommy La Stella hit two doubles and his first homer of the season and Jason Heyward had four hits and 3 RBIs as the Cubs rebounded from their worst loss of the season, 13-5, on Saturday.

Despite that loss, Chicago outscored Cincinnati 38-14 in the four-game series, which started Thursday with Jake Arrieta's 16-0 no-hitter.

The Cubs have won six of their seven games against the Reds this season and nine of their last 10 over the last two seasons. Chicago's record over 19 games is its best since the 1969 team started 14-5. The 1907 Cubs started 16-3.

Hammel (3-0) allowed three hits with two walks and a season-high seven strikeouts and sparked Chicago's two-run second inning with a two-out single to right. He, Arrieta and John Lackey all are 3-0, giving the Cubs three 3-0 pitchers before May 1 for the first time in franchise history.

Rizzo, who went into the game two homers short of tying the National League lead, hit two-run shots in each of his first two at-bats, helping the Cubs lead 8-0 after three innings.

Alfredo Simon, making his first start since lasting a career-low 2/3 of an inning against the Cubs at Chicago on April 13, pitch 2 2/3 innings on Sunday. Simon (0-2), who missed his start on Tuesday with right biceps tendinitis, allowed nine hits and eight runs with one walk and three strikeouts, but he actually lowered his ERA against Chicago from 67.16 to 35.14.

The Reds have lost in all four of Simon's appearances this season, including three starts.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: With Chicago having Monday off, manager Joe Maddon considered Sunday a good day to give CF Dexter Fowler his second non-start of the season. Fowler was riding a six-game hitting streak and leading the NL with 17 runs scored.

Reds: RHP Anthony DeSclafani, who hasn't pitched after suffering a strained left oblique in spring training, three 61 pitches over four innings for Double-A Pensacola on Saturday and felt great, manager Bryan Price said. DeSclafani is scheduled to pitch on Thursday for Single-A Dayton.

UP NEXT

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks, loser of his last two starts, starts the opener of Chicago's three-game home series against Milwaukee. Hendricks is 4-1 in six career starts against the Brewers, and his 1.45 ERA is his best against any team he has faced at least four times.

Reds: RHP Raisel Iglesias (1-1) makes his first career appearance against the Mets as Cincinnati opens a six-game road trip with the first of three in New York. The Reds are 3-1 in Iglesias's four starts this season.

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.