Cubs manager Joe Maddon moved first baseman Anthony Rizzo into the leadoff spot on Tuesday last week, June 13. The decision immediately paid off as Rizzo led off the game with a no-doubt home run to center field off of Zack Wheeler. It was the start of what would become a trend.
The next day, Rizzo led off the game with a solo home run to left-center off of Matt Harvey. After an off-day, the Cubs opened up a series against the Pirates on Friday and Rizzo led off with a walk against Trevor Williams. On Saturday, he opened the game with a single facing Ivan Nova. He greeted Jameson Taillon with a double to begin Sunday’s game. Rizzo singled off of Clayton Richard to kick off Monday’s series opener against the Padres. And on Tuesday, he led off with a solo home run to center field off of Jhoulys Chacin.
So, coming into Wednesday afternoon’s game versus the Padres, Rizzo was 6-for-6 with two singles, a walk, a double, and three homers in his very first at-bat of a game since being made the Cubs’ lead-off man. Unfortunately for him, he was not able to keep the streak going. After working a 3-0 count to begin Wednesday’s game against Miguel Diaz, Rizzo flied out to Hunter Renfroe in right field.
Entering Wednesday’s action, Rizzo was batting .268/.398/.529 overall with 17 home runs and 47 RBI in 314 plate appearances. The competition is absolutely stacked this year at first base, but Rizzo is right up there and will probably be seen at the All-Star Game next month.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.