Cubs

Anthony Rizzo apparently has a new lucky bat

Anthony Rizzo apparently has a new lucky bat

MILWAUKEE - It wasn't quite a moment made for Hollywood. There was no sign of Matt Szczur or the bat-boy from "The Natural."

But Anthony Rizzo's "merch guy" sure picked out a winner.

Rizzo typically swings a black bat, but was seen waving around light brown lumber in the latter innings of Monday's 7-2 Cubs win over the Brewers.

It led to a pair of home runs — one foul off Josh Hader; one fair off Matt Albers — that probably approached a combined 850 feet between the shots.

There are no differences in the bats. Same weight, same size, just a different color and a bit of an older model.

This lighter bat was the same one Rizzo used in 2013, so he decided to bring "it back to the younger days."

After breaking his bat earlier in the game, Rizzo decided to try his luck at something new for his 8th-inning plate appearance against Hader that wound up in a walk.

"I feel like I hit the ball pretty well here a lot and it goes right at them," Rizzo said. "The Brewers are very, very good at being in a good position to defend.

"I broke my bat the at-bat before and I brought this one, so I thought, 'I'll give it a try.'"

The last time the Cubs were in Milwaukee, Rizzo was placed on the disabled list with a back issue during the middle of the series. He went 0-for-5 in the one game he did play.

Over his career at Miller Park, Rizzo is hitting .263 with an .870 OPS, both of which rank in the middle of the pack in terms of ballparks.

But those numbers haven't been very good over the last couple years. Rizzo hit just .176 at Miller Park over the last two seasons with a .628 OPS and .756 OPS in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

With this new bat, however, Rizzo has yet to make an out and he helped spark the Cubs to a victory.

The homer was Rizzo's third of the month and 10th since May 1.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

Mark Schanowski, Mark Carman and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the D'Backs thanks to a surprisingly solid start from Tyler Chatwood. Should the Cubs trust him more than they trust Yu Darvish? Meanwhile, the bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

12:00- The guys preview the huge series against the Dodgers at Wrigley.

16:00- The White Sox lose 2 of 3 in Detroit but Kap is still excited about the future.

20:00- The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs are becoming a fight. So who will win the East? And can anybody even threaten the Warriors?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

After starting the season 2-7 on the road, two weeks without Jon Lester looked like a possible death sentence for the Cubs. Instead, it now looks like a turning point.

Somebody needed to step up. Anybody. Bullpen or rotation, but preferably both. Well, that is exactly what happened and the Cubs are quickly back to the .500 mark at 10-10.

Jose Quintana was the first to accept the challenge, dominating the surprising Pirates with the eleven strikeouts and then seven shutout innings against the lowly Marlins in his next outing. He pitched "like a Porcshe" while attacking batters in both games with precision handling and it was contagious. Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood followed his lead while the bullpen turned around their production, too.

Our stats guru, Chris Kamka, offered up these facts to show the startling improvements.

In the first nine games, the Cubs' team ERA, starter ERA and reliever ERA all ranked 29th or worse in MLB. It's a team game, but it was obvious which part of the team was struggling. Over the last 11 games, everything has changed. Since that opening road trip from Hell, the Cubs have led the majors in all three categories. The relievers have posted a 1.85 ERA and the starters are at a blistering 1.66 ERA with six quality starts since Lester went on the injured list. 

Yes, it's a small sample size in a 162 game season. However, if we're going to overreact to a disastrous start, it's only fair to also hyperbolize this spectacular stretch. We asked for somebody to step-up. The Cubs' pitching staff did just that.    

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