Anthony Rizzo’s three-run homer powers Cubs to another win over Mets
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sun-Times Media July 6, 2012 11:16PM
Anthony Rizzo follows the flight of his three-run home run in the fifth inning off Johan Santana. | Frank Franklin II~AP
Updated: August 8, 2012 6:15AM
NEW YORK — Before the last game in Atlanta this week, Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted he wondered what might have been if he’d had Anthony Rizzo in his lineup all year.
‘‘I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,’’ Sveum said.
The next night, Rizzo — already a nine-game rookie sensation — lit up the New York night in his 10th game Friday as a Cub with four hits, including a three-run homer that produced a game-winning RBI for the fourth time.
In fact, by the time another strong start from Travis Wood played out in a second straight win against two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, Sveum would be lying if he said he couldn’t have used this guy all year, too.
Wood’s fifth straight quality start — four of which came against Cy Young winners — gave him his fourth straight victory.
That the Cubs beat the New York Mets 8-7 in the opener of a three-game series and are one win away from their first winning road trip since early last September might not mean much for a team still flirting with the worst record in the majors.
But where they go after the upcoming All-Star break — inevitable trades and all — could have a lot to do with Rizzo and Wood. And while the post-break schedule still might not have a lot of tangible meaning beyond the Cubs’ draft position next June, it might just be a start.
What has Rizzo meant so far?
“Everything, really,’’ Sveum said before the game, listing his hitting, power, defense and poise.
The Cubs have won eight of their last 11 games, and both Rizzo and Wood have been huge parts of that success, along with overall good starting pitching and solid fielding.
“Execution,” said veteran pitcher Ryan Dempster. “It comes down to that. It’s kind of a simple formula. If you execute pitches better and have better at-bats and play better defense, you’re going to have better results.
“Obviously, Rizzo’s done a great job and kind of brought in that new energy and things like that you just try to build off of that.’’
As for Wood (4-3), he’s at least starting to quiet the critics who have ripped the trade for him that sent lights-out lefty reliever Sean Marshall to Cincinnati last winter.
The game did not come without a classic ninth-inning drama produced by closer Carlos Marmol — who took over a four-run game and turned it into a nail-biter by allowing a solo homer before issuing three walks and a hit to put the tying run in scoring position with one out.
But after Ike Davis’ two-run single put runners at first and second and sent the CitiField crowd into a frenzy, the rally ended almost as quickly.
Lucas Duca lined a shot toward the middle that Marmol somehow plucked out of the air and was nearly able to walk the ball to first for the game-ending double play.