Well, it finally happened yesterday for the first time in eight games—Anthony Rizzo was retired to lead off a game for the Cubs. He went 0 for 4 in Chicago’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at Wrigley. It also snapped his 14-game hit streak.
Nothing to do now but start a new one if you’re the 6’3” slugger.
Since sliding into the leadoff role for Chicago on June 13, Rizzo has proven the move to be a great one. In eight plate appearances to begin a contest, he’s 6 for 7 with three homers and a double. His additional plate appearance resulted in a walk, which easily could have been another dinger.
Had the umpiring crew not have overturned the referenced call Friday night, it would have been Rizzo’s third straight game with a leadoff blast. This hasn’t been done in the majors since 1996 when Brady Anderson had a four game stretch.
According to Christopher Kamka on Twitter, Rizzo is the first Cub to reach base safely to lead off seven straight games since Richie Ashburn in 1960. Kamka also notes Rizzo being the first Cub with three leadoff homers in a month in more than eight years.
Nobody saw this coming. It just seemed to happen out of nowhere. Gotta give manager Joe Maddon his fair share of credit for making the change.
Rizzo’s torrid pace batting leadoff has been truly something, historic even. No reason for Maddon to stop what he’s doing now as the Cubs are 5-3 since Rizzo became the leadoff hitter. If it works, it works.
Coming into tonight’s game vs the Marlins, Rizzo carries a .373/.482/.731 slash line in June. So he’s been red hot even before he started batting leadoff—should be interesting to see how this continues for him.
Aside from his emergence as Chicago’s new leadoff man, Rizzo was involved in a controversial play Monday night vs the Padres. In the sixth inning, he attempted to score on a fly ball from Kris Bryant. Despite having a clear path to score, Rizzo collided hard with catcher Austin Hedges, who left the game.
MLB announced that Rizzo had violated Rule 6.01(i), which states: “A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision.”
Despite the violation, Rizzo was not disciplined by the league because they didn’t think there was any malicious intent in the slide.
Austin Hedges was unhappy. “It was a bad slide,” he said. “I clearly gave him the plate. He went out of his way and got me pretty good.”
“It’s a play where I’m out by two steps,’’ Rizzo explained. “I slide, he runs into me. It’s one of those plays it’s unfortunate he exited.’’
Rule 6.01(i) came into effect in 2014, and no player has been disciplined yet for a violation. Maybe this incident with Rizzo will start enforcing that rule a little more. It exists for a reason, and that’s to protect the catcher.
Entering Thursday night, Rizzo is hitting .264/.393/.521 on the season in 261 at-bats. His 17 homers and 47 RBIs both lead the Cubs, who are 36-35 and 11-8 in June.