Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo finds pain relief in making HBP history

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Anthony Rizzo reacts after Josh Smith’s first-inning pitch caroms off Rizzo’s knee.

CINCINNATI – The National League’s leading pin cushion – who saw red when the Cardinals threw at him during the last homestand – took a painful pitch to the knee in Tuesday’s first inning against the Cincinnati Reds.

And celebrated.

“That’s top five of the ones that hurt a little more, but it’s cool,” Cubs’ slugger Anthony Rizzo said of getting hit by Reds rookie Josh Smith in the Cubs’ 4-1 victory.

It was the 30th time he was hit by a pitch this season, leading the majors by far. And, along with his 30 home runs, it made him only the second player in major league history in that painful, exclusive, 30-30 club.

The other: Boston’s Don Baylor in 1986 (31 homers, 35 HBPs).

“It’s really cool,” Rizzo said. “There’s only one other guy in there, right? How long has this game been going?”

OK, but at what cost – of pain medication anyway?

“It’s 30-30, right?” he said, smiling.

Rizzo has no great desire to tie the National League record of 31 HBPs for a left-handed hitter – much less to catch Baylor’s total.

But he’s sincere about appreciating one of the outcomes of a conscious effort to crowd the plate (the HBPs alone are worth 11 points on his .388 on-base percentage) – while appreciating even more his good fortune of avoiding serious injury from any of those missiles into various body parts.

“I don’t really dive into the plate much, so I know I can get out of the way, or kind of brace for it,” he said. “Thankfully, I haven’t gotten hit in the head.

“I’m very lucky,” he added, “especially because I don’t wear any padding. But it’s just part of [the game]. It’s just part of it.”

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