The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Illinois

June 11, 2014

Rizzo's big game difference for Cubs

PITTSBURGH — All eyes were supposed to be on Gregory Polanco. But thanks to his new-found success against left-handed pitchers, Anthony Rizzo stole the show.

Rizzo homered, doubled twice and drove in three runs to lead the Chicago Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-3 on Tuesday night, spoiling Polanco’s much-anticipated debut.

Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the first inning off left-hander Francisco Liriano, who came out in the fourth with discomfort on his right side. Rizzo also doubled and scored in the fourth and hit an RBI double in the seventh, a drive to deep right-center that struck Polanco’s left wrist as the touted Pirates rookie tried to make the catch.

Rizzo has five home runs and a .344 batting average in 61 at-bats against left-handers this season. Last year, he batted .189 with seven homers against southpaws in 189 at-bats.

“I feel more comfortable against them now, and it’s the best I’ve ever hit left-handers at any level,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever figure lefties out — or right-handers, either — but I do feel confident against them.”

Rizzo has every reason to feel confident. He has five homers in his past 10 games, raising his season total to 13.

“You can talk about mechanics and scouting reports and everything else, but the biggest thing in this game is confidence,” Rizzo said. “If you step into the batter’s box with confidence, then you’re giving yourself a much better chance to hit.”

Polanco went 1-for-5 after getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, where the right fielder was leading the International League with a .347 batting average and 49 RBIs in 62 games.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was exciting. I was a little nervous at first, but then I relaxed and had fun.”

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