Despite home runs, Rizzo searching for consistency early

Despite home runs, Rizzo searching for consistency early
April 13, 2013, 11:45 am
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By Vinnie Duber contributor 

Only five National League players entered play on Saturday with more home runs than Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Look past his trio of home runs and nine RBIs, though, and find that he’s batting just .167 with 13 strikeouts, including four straight Ks between Thursday and Friday’s games against the Giants.

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“Most of the times when these things happen, you get caught up in maybe guessing too much, trying to figure the pitcher out, worrying about maybe mechanics,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “And the bottom line is, then you miss the fastball that you should have put in play and hit hard. And you fouled it off or swung and missed because you were looking soft. So I think it’s a little bit of a combination of a few things.”

“I’ve kind of got off the fastball a little bit. I’m just trying to get back on the fastball, put the ball in play, not try to do too much,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo snapped his strikeout streak in his final at-bat Friday, lining out to left field in the bottom of the seventh. Rizzo was happy to have avoided his fourth strikeout of the day and the infamous golden sombrero.

“Putting good contact on it was the biggest thing there, and now you just build off of that, not try to do too much,” he said. “Those strikeouts were a byproduct of me trying to hit three home runs in one at-bat when I could just put the ball in the left-center gap.”

Cubs staff establishing their own no-homers club

Despite a record of 4-6, the Cubs have been pitching well. And a sign of that success on the mound has been the low amount of home runs the team has allowed. Entering play Saturday, the Cubs were tied with four other teams -- the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees and Twins -- for the fewest homers allowed in the Major Leagues, with just five long balls yielded.

It’s been almost a week since the last roundtripper off a Cubs pitcher. That came from Dan Uggla in the eighth inning of the Cubs’ final game in Atlanta last Sunday. Entering Saturday’s contest with the Giants, it had been 36 straight homerless innings for the staff.

Nine of those innings came in Friday’s 4-3 win, a game that saw the Cubs smack three home runs of their own. Yet, the pitching combination of Carlos Villanueva, James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa kept the Giants in the ballpark. The wind was howling out of Wrigley Field, and perhaps the sometimes hitter-friendly conditions make the Cubs’ homerless streak all the more impressive.

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“Especially here in Wrigley, some days the conditions don’t favor us as pitchers. When you’ve got the wind howling out, you’ve got to focus on down in the zone and just keeping them off balance. So you steer clear of that good, solid contact,” Russell said.

DeJesus continues history against Cain

Perhaps David DeJesus’ big offensive day in Friday’s 4-3 win over the Giants shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. The Cubs centerfielder has hit very well against Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain over the course of their careers.

After collecting a double and a home run off the Giants All-Star right-hander Friday, DeJesus now owns a career .400 average against Cain, including two doubles, two homers, three RBIs and two walks in 17 plate appearances.

Describing his third-inning home run, which gave the Cubs an early 1-0 advantage Friday, DeJesus showed an extensive knowledge of what Cain had to offer.

“It’s one of those things, with Cain, you want to be aggressive,” DeJesus said. “He’s throwing a lot of strikes. When you get a fastball, you want to take advantage of it because he’s good with his backdoor cutter, curveball and his changeup. So I was able to get under it.”

Cubs notes

-- Recovering second baseman Darwin Barney will begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Saturday night. Similarly, third baseman Ian Stewart will start a rehab assignment with Iowa on Sunday.

-- Suffering from a bit of back tightness, starting pitcher Scott Feldman will take advantage of the Cubs’ off day this Monday and pick up an extra few days of rest. Originally slated to make his next start Wednesday against his former team when the Texas Rangers visit Wrigley Field, Feldman will now start the second game of the Cubs’ upcoming series in Milwaukee next Saturday.