Does Anthony Rizzo have staying power as the Cubs’ leadoff man?
PITTSBURGH — Anthony Rizzo led off another game with a big hit Sunday against the Pirates, this time a double to left field.
It not only extended Rizzo’s hitting streak to 12 games, matching his career high, but it also extended his run as the self-proclaimed ‘‘greatest leadoff hitter of all time.’’
And speaking of extended runs, don’t be surprised if manager Joe Maddon sticks with Rizzo in the spot longer than expected.
‘‘It really has worked out well to this point,’’ said Maddon, who moved Rizzo to leadoff Tuesday in New York to shake up a stagnant lineup. ‘‘We’ve had actually a better flow to the offense with him hitting there.’’
That has as much to do with Rizzo getting more at-bats and finding runners on base late in the game as it does his penchant for first-inning production.
In his five first innings in the leadoff spot, Rizzo has two home runs, a walk, a single and a double. The Cubs have scored in the first inning of four of those games and are averaging 7.3 runs.
‘‘It looks good, and it’s really kind of neat to see Rizzo come up it seems like almost every inning,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘And he’s swinging the bat well. Let’s just play with it a little bit longer and see where it takes us.’’
Maddon said he plans to take another look at his lineup configuration when Kris Bryant returns to the lineup with renewed vigor and when Ben Zobrist returns from the disabled list (probably this week). But he’s not ruling out even a months-long run with Rizzo at the top.
‘‘There’s no telling right now,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Getting KB rested and back will be interesting to see. Getting Zobrist back off the DL will be interesting to see, also. [Kyle] Schwarber hopefully continues to come back and get better. All those things would matter. But it’s really an interesting concept right now.’’
Rizzo went 3-for-5, including a two-run homer, in the Cubs’
7-1 victory. That made him 9-for-22 with two walks and five extra-base hits as a leadoff man.
‘‘Listen, [if] we win ballgames, I’ll be the leadoff hitter for the rest of my career,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s crazy. It’s weird. It’s funny. But it’s great. We’ve played better baseball, hit the ball better.’’
Shortstop Addison Russell sat out after turning his right ankle while rounding second base in the second inning Saturday. He stayed in the game and later hit a homer. His status is to be evaluated again Monday.
‘‘I don’t anticipate anything awful; it’s just a sore ankle,’’ Maddon said.
Russell is 7-for-21 with three homers, two doubles and seven RBI in his last seven games.
Heyward leaves game
Right fielder Jason Heyward left the game in the middle of the fourth after scraping up his left hand two innings earlier.
Heyward dragged his throwing hand across the gravel warning track while trying to make a sliding catch on a foul fly by Josh Bell near the stands in the second. He was treated on the field for several minutes by the trainer, who bandaged the torn skin. The injury isn’t considered serious.
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