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Anthony Rizzo stays hot at top of order as Cubs split with Cardinals

Anthony Rizzo isn’t the prototype for leadoff hitters, but you can’t argue with the results.

Rizzo continued his white-hot run in the leadoff spot Saturday during the Cubs’ doubleheader, which they split with the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo reached base safely in eight of his 10 plate appearances. He went 1-for-2 with three walks, a triple and a run in the Cubs’ 7-2 victory in Game 1, then went 4-for-5 with an RBI in the 6-3 loss in Game 2.

“He’s having a lot of fun with it and doing well, and we’re doing well, also,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Rizzo right now is into it, and he’s doing a good job.”

Anthony Rizzo reacts after hitting an RBI single against the Cardinals in the sixth inning of Game 2 of a doubleheader Saturday. | David Banks/Getty Images

Good is an understatement. Rizzo has been unstoppable since taking over the leadoff role July 13, starting seven consecutive games there. He’s 13-for-24 in those games with five doubles, a triple, an RBI, four runs and seven walks. His on-base percentage during that span is .636.

During his eight-year career, Rizzo has at least 10 plate appearances in every spot of the batting order. And nowhere is he better than at leadoff in 97 plate appearances. He’s batting .367 lifetime with six home runs, two triples and 17 RBI.

Maddon experimented with Rizzo in the leadoff spot last year, too, saying at the time: “We’ve actually had a better flow to the offense with him hitting there.”

There was a great deal of drama in the nightcap, which got rowdy after plate umpire Will Little ejected Javy Baez following a called third strike on a check swing in the fifth inning. Baez tossed his bat and slammed his helmet, prompting his first career ejection. Maddon came out to argue and was ejected, as well.

Most of the 41,244 fans booed Little throughout the next inning. Replays were inconclusive.

Maddon said the ejection was inappropriate and believed Little should have at least appealed to first-base umpire Ted Barrett. Baez agreed.

“I told him it was too close for him to call that,” Baez said. “He said he had a good view on it. But it’s almost impossible to see it right behind the catcher when you’re bearing down behind him. We’re all human. Either way, it was going to be rough for one of the teams.”

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The Cubs had a break go their way an inning later. Shortstop Paul DeJong misplayed a routine double-play ball off the bat of Addison Russell, which opened the door to a three-run inning, including Rizzo’s RBI single.

The 3-1 lead that the Cubs fought so hard to claim melted away, though. The Cardinals added a run in the seventh, another in the eighth and three in the ninth. The Cubs had at least one runner on base in every inning but only scored in the sixth.

“We had great at-bats,” Maddon said. “It was just unfortunate that there was a lot of bad luck.”

Rizzo and the offense smothered St. Louis in Game 1. The Cubs didn’t have any home runs, but they applied constant pressure to Cardinals pitchers and kept the defense off-balance.

Rizzo set the table with a triple and scored in the first inning. Starter Tyler Chatwood walked six batters in 5„ innings but allowed only one run and came away with his first win since May 11.

The Cubs have split all three of their doubleheaders this season.