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Rizzo (left) and Bryant finished 1 and 4 in the NL MVP race last year, and their September finish could be the key to the Cubs finishing off the NL Central race this year.

Could big month by the Bryzzo Souvenir Co. be key to Cubs’ September?

SHARE Could big month by the Bryzzo Souvenir Co. be key to Cubs’ September?
SHARE Could big month by the Bryzzo Souvenir Co. be key to Cubs’ September?

PHILADELPHIA — Before the Cubs’ 17-2 victory against the worst team in baseball turned into a rout in the seventh inning, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo offered a glimpse of their combined stretch-drive potential.

Trailing 2-0 Saturday after Phillies rookie sensation Rhys Hoskins’ home run in the first inning, the Cubs got one back in the second, then Bryant was hit by a pitch in the third with one out and one on, just ahead of Rizzo’s go-ahead three-run homer.

In the fifth inning, they hit back-to-back homers to make it 6-2.

By the time Bryant walked to load the bases in the big seventh and Rizzo followed with a single, Bryant had reached in every trip to the plate, and Rizzo had nine total bases and five RBI.

“You can’t really control when and where and what time you get hot,” Bryant said. “But sure it would be cool to kind of hit a bunch of homers at the same time and score a bunch of runs.”

Nearly five months into the season, the Cubs lead the National League Central by three games, and their core middle-of-the-order hitters have strong numbers.

But Bryant and Rizzo, who finished first and fourth in the league’s MVP voting last year, haven’t been hot together for a sustained stretch yet.

If something like that were to start now?

Manager Joe Maddon said he sees a lot to like already with his hitters.

“But it goes without saying that if those two guys were to get simultaneously going, it would be kind of nice for us,” he said.

Already, their 2015 Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, is on a 10-start hot streak like he hasn’t had since at least early last season.

And after seven strong innings against the Phillies, Kyle Hendricks picked up his first victory since May 24 and has put together a three-start stretch of commanding outings (2.37 ERA).

He appears to be all the way back from a monthlong finger injury and looks a lot like the pitcher he was when he led the majors in ERA last year.

“It’s been a process the last four or five games,” said Hendricks, who also became the first Cubs pitcher in 14 years to get two hits in an inning (the seventh). “It’s really started to click more and more every game.”

Next?

That might be Rizzo, who has followed his NL Player of the Week performance by going 8-for-19 (.421) with two homers, four walks and six RBI in the first five games of a six-game road trip.

“It’s the end of August, so the body’s kind of in that period of just [needing] to get to the next couple of weeks, and the adrenaline starts taking over,” said Rizzo, whose 29th and 30th homers put him only two short of his career high with 34 games to play.

“I try to be as consistent as I can be the entire year. I expect nothing different in September going forward, just being consistent.’’

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For Bryant, the season got a lot more challenging the sixth game out of the All-Star break when he suffered a sprain in the crease between the pinkie and ring finger on his left hand.

Bryant said it has “gotten a ton better” since then, but he has been told by the training staff that he likely will deal with discomfort the rest of the season, and he gets maintenance treatment daily.

But he makes no excuses, and it hasn’t prevented some big games at the plate in recent weeks.

“I’m in a perfectly fine place,” Bryant said. “There’s always things that you battle through each year, and this year it happens to be my hand.

“That’s OK. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve used this whole season as a big learning experience, just how to handle certain things like that. I feel like I’ve learned a bunch from that.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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