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The inning that saved the division: Rizzo and the Cubs rally to force game 163

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USA TODAY

The inning that saved the division: Rizzo and the Cubs rally to force game 163

The 3rd inning Sunday saved the Cubs' chances at ending the regular season as division champions. At the time, the Brewers were already up to an early lead at Miller Park, while the Cubs had fallen behind, 2-0, to the Cardinals at Wrigley. 

With two outs in the inning, Daniel Murphy doubled, Ben Zobrist tripled and then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Javy Baez followed that with a walk, and then for his 100th RBI of the season, Anthony Rizzo hit a double to right-center. The Cubs never trailed again, going on to win, 10-5.

"It’s something that I take pride in, that’s for sure," Rizzo said of the personal milestone. "That’s something, to be honest, I did not think I’d be able to reach in the middle of May this year."

But, as expected, Rizzo said that he doesn't really think much about reaching 100 RBI for the fourth straight season. At least not yet. He'll take the time to process that after the postseason is done. For now, his contribution to the Cubs' hugely important 3rd inning in a 10-run effort was a piece of an offense that's been clicking nicely for several games now.

"A lot of two-out rallies. Two-out knocks, two-out walks just kept things going. Kept the line moving, and we usually have good success when we do that," Rizzo said Sunday.

Catcher Willson Contreras, who has struggled offensively for the second half, contributed a two-run line drive homer to left that put the Cubs at 8 runs at the time, said that it was Rizzo's double that galvanized the offense.

"They went up 2-0, but we trust in ourselves and there's A LOT of game left. 27 outs," Contreras said. "We kept going hard and finally Rizzo hit an important double to get ahead and we were able to make good contact after that and have fun. We need to have fun. if we put pressure on ourselves, it's gonna be harder."

Some valid concern might have cropped up after the Cubs lost on Saturday, 2-1, but that was against a sterling pitching performance from Miles Mikolas, and even in that, the Cubs still had mentally focused at bats, so it wasn't all that surprising to see them jump out for 10 runs Sunday.

Credit is due Murphy for his two-out double in the 3rd, but the crowd at Wrigley --- and the Cubs offense -- came to life when Zobrist hit his triple to the right field corner.

"That was the play that got it going," manager Joe Maddon said.

This is the kind of offense that Maddon has preached all season; the offense that "swarms," as he has put it many times, makes the Cubs near impossible to beat even when their starter has to leave the game early. 

They were aware of what was going on early in Milwaukee, Rizzo said, but their own two-run deficit early wasn't daunting. But, as Maddon pointed out after the game, in the much more high-pressure situation that will be Monday, being the team to score early will be more vital.

"It’s very difficult, experience-wise, to come back in those kind of games. Really, you want to get out good," Maddon said.

Kris Bryant and wife Jessica take batting practice at home, with fun twist

Kris Bryant and wife Jessica take batting practice at home, with fun twist

The baseball season is on hold due to COVID-19, but Kris Bryant is still getting his work in.

Sunday, Bryant shared clips of him and his wife, Jessica, taking batting practice in their at-home cage. We know Bryant has a nice swing, but Jessica — who played high school softball — has quite the sweet stroke herself.

Not to be outdone, Bryant wraps up the post by showing a highlight of the home run he hit at the 2016 All-Star game.

Ah, sweet nostalgia.

The Bryant's son is due in the near future, so perhaps we'll get a look at all three in the cage in a couple of years. With an at-home facility, the kid is going to be a stud, right?

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Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Craig Kimbrel’s debut season with the Cubs didn’t go well. The closer on a Hall of Fame trajectory went 0-4 with a 6.53 ERA (8.00 FIP) and 1.597 WHIP in 2019, converting 13 of 16 save tries.

Kimbrel had an abnormal preseason last year and didn’t make his season debut until late June. 2020 is a clean slate for the right-hander, but Major League Baseball is looking at an unorthodox season due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Whenever the season starts, Kimbrel has the chance to start fresh and put last year’s struggles behind him. Until then, here’s a few things to know about him:

1. Kimbrel was born in Huntsville, Ala., and played quarterback as a junior and senior at Lee High School. Per a Q&A on his website, the school featured a run-oriented offense, and Kimbrel said he "wasn't really good." Alas.

2. Post-grad, Kimbrel attended Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. He went 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA as a freshman, leading to the Braves selecting him in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft.

Kimbrel returned to school and improved his draft stock, going 9-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 81 innings as a sophomore. Atlanta drafted him again in 2008, this time in the third round.

3. Kimbrel’s pitching stance is notorious — he bends his torso parallel to the ground and dangles his arm at a 90-degree angle. But he doesn’t do it for kicks. It became too painful for him to hold his arm behind his back in 2010, when he suffered from biceps tendinitis.

Opposing fans have made fun of the stance, but hey, it’s unique.

4. During his time with the Red Sox (2017-18) Kimbrel and his teammates — including David Price, Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts — became avid fans of “Fortnite,” the multiplayer-focused video game that took the world by storm two years ago.

“Let’s say we get back at 11 p.m. from a game, we’ll play until 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m. depending on what time our game is the next day,” David Price told The Athletic in 2018. “But day games or off days, we can put some time in.”

Same, David. Same.

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