CLEVELAND — It goes down as two line drives in the scorebook.
Anthony Rizzo has been mired in a season-long slump (OK, that's a little dramatic given it's still not even May yet and he missed more than a week with a back injury), but he may be showing signs of getting out of it thanks to a couple of weak groundballs.
Rizzo finished Tuesday's 10-3 win over the Indians with two hits in his final two at-bats, though one hit barely made it past the pitcher's mound and the other barely made it to the outfield grass.
In fact, Rizzo's exit velocities on both balls combined was 109.2 mph, or 8 mph less than Kyle Schwarber's 117 mph homer in the second inning Tuesday.
So how can a 35.5 mph jam-shot with a hit probability of 8 percent get a player like Rizzo going?
It's all about the hands.
"When I was a hitting coach, I swear, if one of my better hitters got jammed his first at-bat, I went up to him and I said, 'I promise that's at least two line drives tonight,'" Joe Maddon relayed before Wednesday's game.
"My explanation of getting jammed is that you make a mistake with your bottom hand. Your bottom hand gets too far out, you expose the weak part of the bat to the ball, thus you get jammed. That's not a bad way to go.
"But if you're always coming open too soon, exposing the fatter part of the bat to that particular pitch, eventually they're going to go further away. So anything you hit well is gonna be a foul ball more than likely or rolled over. So this is a better method to go — staying inside the ball, getting the head of the bat there."
Maddon pointed to how Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and how they made/make a living based off keeping their hands inside a ball and driving it to center or the other way.
That's what Maddon wants to see from not just Rizzo, but all the Cubs hitters. It's what the manager has been preaching all season, especially the last week or so, as the Cubs have seen better offensive results overall, Wednesday's 4-1 loss notwithstanding.
However, they've been doing a lot of that while Rizzo still doesn't look like Rizzo.
He watched his batting average sink to below .100 in his first game off the disabled list, but has been on a climb since, up to .179 after a 1-for-3 performance with an RBI single Wednesday. Still, Rizzo has just one extra-base hit on the season — a homer in the very first game of the season on March 29.
For a guy that's been remarkably consistent in his career, you can bet on Rizzo's numbers normalizing in the long run, which would be a big boost to a Cubs team currently without Kris Bryant, though they're hoping he can return Thursday at Wrigley Field.
It bodes well for the Cubs that they sit second in the National League in runs scored without a Rizzo breakthrough. And maybe it really will be a ball off the fists that traveled roughly 75 feet that gets him in a groove.