BOSTON – The Cubs didn’t come here to be tourists.
In front of three sellout crowds at Fenway Park, the Cubs swept the defending World Series champs, leaving Boston after Wednesday night’s 16-9 slugfest. This made it clear the Red Sox shouldn’t be buyers at the trade deadline and will be playing for 2015, because their 38-47 record is almost identical to the 37-46 Cubs.
Anthony Rizzo – who once dreamed about being a big part of the future in Boston – hoped this series would be a confidence-builder for a team still searching for its identity.
The Cubs didn’t let up in a game that lasted four hours and 19 minutes, generating 19 hits and blasting four homers. Justin Ruggiano (five RBI) slammed one off a billboard atop the Green Monster. Mike Olt hit another one over the Green Monster. Darwin Barney needed one for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with a double and a triple.
“We knew what we were coming into,” Olt said. “We know we have what it takes, but it’s a matter of actually executing and finishing the job. So I think for us, it’s going to give us a little confidence going into the All-Star break.”
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Big picture, Rizzo and Starlin Castro are playing like they shouldn’t go on vacation in the middle of July. The night after they started a ninth-inning rally against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, they combined for four hits, two stolen bases, three runs and an RBI. They’re playing as if last season never happened.
“Experience comes into play,” pitcher Edwin Jackson said. “The more they get the chance to play, the more they get the chance to discover themselves and realize what they’re able to do. They’re All-Star-caliber players, and the quicker they realize that and take the field with that type of attitude, it shows in their play.”
Rizzo is hitting .281 with 17 homers, 44 RBI and an .894 OPS. The Red Sox could use that kind of thump in their lineup after almost getting no-hit by Jake Arrieta on Monday night and then falling to one game out of last place in the American League East. David Ortiz can’t do it forever.
“If I was the (Red Sox) first baseman last year, I would have a nice shiny ring,” Rizzo said. “When you get drafted, you know you play for an organization. But you also play for the other teams out there. You just have that organization’s name on you. You obviously want to play with that team. But I know firsthand, you’re playing for a lot of other teams as well.
“You have to keep playing and get better, because everyone’s watching all the time.”
Rizzo first became a trade chip when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer engineered the Adrian Gonzalez deal with the Padres in December 2010. Rizzo had already grown closer with the future Cubs executives when he was diagnosed Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While going to do a Boston Duck Tour on Sunday, the Rizzo family passed Massachusetts General Hospital.
“I didn’t think it would, but it brought back a few knots in my stomach,” said Rizzo, who made a visit there and got most of his treatment back home in South Florida. “The whole Red Sox organization set that up and handled everything for me and made it as easy as possible.”
Everything appears to be working out for Rizzo now.
“You think you’re untouchable,” Rizzo said. “That was the toughest, getting traded from (Boston), because I still have a lot of friends from the Red Sox organization. When you get traded once, you realize the business of things. You don’t know until you go through it. I’m happy where I’m at now.”