ST. LOUIS – As the Cubs continue their turnstile approach to the roster – Darnell McDonald in, J.C. Boscan out – it shows how much they need their core players.
[MORE: As Cubs build 'The Core,' Kris Bryant is making a good first impression]
The Cubs have used 49 players this season – McDonald would make 50 – and should blow past the franchise record set last year (53). As the organization heads toward another winter of rebuilding, the focus will again be on Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who are supposed to be fixtures for years to come.
“We definitely have to get Rizzo and Castro going on a consistent basis these last seven weeks of the season,” manager Dale Sveum said. “We have to get these guys hot or we’re going to really struggle.”
The Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 on Saturday night at Busch Stadium by getting key contributions from No. 8 hitter Darwin Barney and lucky-to-be-walking Dioner Navarro (sprained ankle). As the team regroups after another fire sale and tries to put together a strong finish, Rizzo doesn’t think it’s all on his shoulders or all about Castro.
[RELATED -- Barney: Cubs get up to play the Cardinals]
“I don’t look at it that way at all,” Rizzo said. “I just try to build off the positives that go on every day. To be honest, you can’t control what happens once you hit the ball.”
But with Rizzo – who began the day hitting .188 with runners in scoring position, a 150-point drop from last season – it might be what happens before he even steps into the box.
“The biggest thing, especially with young hitters, is people get on base in scoring position and the light starts flashing about two-run homers and three-run homers,” Sveum said, “instead of just keeping the line moving, so it turns into a big inning with singles and doubles in the gaps (or) down the opposite line.”
Castro is trying to rediscover what made him the National League’s leader in hits (207) in 2011. He certainly doesn’t view himself as a .247 hitter.
And even though Rizzo has struggled in the clutch, he’s still put together a solid season – 18 homers, 65 RBI, 54 walks, good defense at first base – for someone who turned 24 last week.
[RELATED -- Yadier Molina effect: Cubs finding their frontline catcher]
“We all want better numbers,” Sveum said. “I’m not going to speak for (Rizzo), but obviously you want to be better and that’s what happens when you have seven weeks left. You got opportunities to get those numbers up. (You) got to keep plugging away and get hot swinging the bat on a consistent basis.”