Zobrist ‘a tough out’ in middle of Cubs lineup

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits an RBI triple to score Anthony Rizzo #44 (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND – The night before, Ben Zobrist made baseball history by becoming the second player in baseball history to get three hits in consecutive World Series openers.

The other?

Babe Ruth in 1927 and ’28.

“Yeah, I mean, we’re basically talking about the same guy,’’ Zobrist said, cracking up a media gathering before Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night. “Me and the Babe have that record together.’’

Aside from batting in an RBI spot in the Cubs lineup, there isn’t much comparison between the two, of course. Off the field, Zobrist is a clean-living man of faith, the son of a preacher, a husband and father. On the field, he has been unspectacular yet steady and productive, an on-base monger from the cleanup spot in the first two games of the World Series. He was a bridge to the newly-welcomed threat that is Kyle Schwarber in the fifth spot.

And “he’s the toughest guy to pitch to right now,” Cubs MVP candidate Kris Bryant said.

It might be rubbing off.

“Especially with a young lineup when you see a few guys go up there and take quality at-bats and good hacks one happens after another and it takes some pressure off,’’ Zobrist said. “We did a good job laying off some good pitches. And when they made mistakes in the zone, we really hit the ball hard.’’

Zobrist, who had three hits in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series with the Kansas City Royals, was 3-for-4 in the the Cubs’ 6-0 loss in Game 1.

Against Trevor Bauer in Game 2, Zobrist’s single to center in the third inning pushed Anthony Rizzo to second for Schwarber, who drove him in. Against Zach McAllister in the fifth, he tripled in Rizzo and scored on Schwarber’s second RBI single of the night.

Through the first six innings, by which time the Cubs led 5-0, the 3-4-5 Cubs hitters had reached nine times in a combined 12 plate appearances.

Zobrist was in the middle of it all.

“The older I get, the more it feels like it’s something I’ve done before,’’ Zobrist, 35, said.

While Corey Kluber manhandled the Cubs with a near flawless performance in Game 1, Zobrist suggested the Cubs will be better equipped having seen him Tuesday.

“The more we see him, probably the easier it will be to put good at-bats together,’’ he said.

Before that, though, it’s Game 3 Friday with Kyle Hendricks facing the Indians’ Josh Tomlin in the first World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945. That was only 13 years after Ruth called his home run against Charlie Root in the 1932 World Series.

“I can’t imagine,’’ Zobrist said. “The fans are probably as excited as we are, if not more, to see that game played there. They’ve waited patiently and deserve to see that game played at Wrigley. It’s going to be electric.’’

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@CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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