PITTSBURGH – Anthony Rizzo hardly looks like a typical leadoff hitter. The Chicago Cubs' 6-foot-3, 240-pound first baseman isn't much of a stolen base threat and he doesn't exactly motor down the line. But there's more than one way to challenge opposing pitchers, and Rizzo has done just that when batting first.
Against the Pirates on Sunday, Rizzo homered among his three hits to lead Chicago to a 7-1 victory. The defending World Series champions took two of three in Pittsburgh and improved to 34-34.
Rizzo opened the game with a double and scored in the first inning. He singled and scored in the third, then hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
The home run was Rizzo's 16th of the year, surpassing Kris Bryant for the team lead.
Not bad for a leadoff man.
“It's crazy,” Rizzo said. “It's weird. It's funny. But it's great. If we win ballgames, I'll be the leadoff hitter for the rest of my career. It's all about winning. I'll just say it's different.”
Since manager Joe Maddon moved Rizzo to the leadoff spot Tuesday, he's hitting .409 with three home runs and two doubles in five games.
“Gosh, the way he started the game again and got the momentum rolling,” Maddon said. “I think he likes doing it. He likes the idea of getting that extra at-bat.”
Cubs starter John Lackey (5-7) gave up two hits and struck out four over six innings. Lackey kept the ball on the ground and kept the Pirates off balance all day.
“He was just locating,” Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “His fastball was really good. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but it doesn't matter if you locate. If you locate consistently and make guys expand a little bit when you need to, that always works.”
Carl Edwards Jr., Hector Rondon and Brian Duensing completed the three-hitter for the Cubs.