CHICAGO – Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo justified the hype Sunday with his first walk-off hit in his early career.
Rizzo drove a pitch into the left-field bleachers for a two-run home run in the 10th inning off St. Louis Cardinals rookie Trevor Rosenthal. He capped off his 3-for-4 day in style and was mobbed by his teammates at home plate after the 4-2 win.
“This is something I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid,” Rizzo said. “I’ve never done it before. Not in the minors, not in the little league, not ever. So it’s awesome.”
James Russell (5-0) picked up his second win in as many days after starter Paul Maholm delivered another quality start. The Cubs also won the series, despite being swept at Busch Stadium a week earlier and dropping the opening game Friday. They have now won 12 of 15 at Wrigley Field.
“[Rizzo] didn’t try to do too much, just put a good swing on it,” manager Dale Sveum said. “As strong as he is, he can wait for the ball.”
Since his Cubs’ debut June 26, Rizzo leads all rookies in the National League with seven home runs and 17 RBI. He also leads rookies with a .333 batting average.
“In the later innings, guys seem to press a little harder. And I see a lot veteran hitters at the plate taking pitches and not being aggressive. It’s something I took into this at-bat,” Rizzo said. “I took a clean swing and let the rest take care of itself.”
Maholm, who could be the subject of a possible trade in the next two days, continued his torrid pace, allowing only one run over 6 2⁄3 innings while striking out five.
He now has surrendered one run or fewer in his past six starts.
“You battle throughout the game. I just go out there and be aggressive, try to get ahead,” the 30-year-old left-hander said.
But Maholm worked his way into trouble in the seventh after third baseman David Freese – who started after sitting out the first two games with cramps in his right calf – singled. First baseman Matt Carpenter drove in the Cardinals’ first run by finding the right field corner after a diving Brian LaHair failed to come up with the ball.
Maholm then walked the next two batters, each on five pitches, prompting Sveum to go to his bullpen. Right-hander Manuel Corpas got right fielder Allen Crag to fly out to right, ending the bases-loaded jam.
“I’m not going to throw on down the middle just because I can say ‘I don’t walk a guy,’ “ Maholm said. “That’s where you got to be smart and stubborn at the same time.”
However, Cardinals center fielder Carlos Beltan homered to left-center off reliever Shawn Camp the next inning to even the score at 2. The Cubs squandered opportunities to regain the lead in both the eighth and ninth innings.
The Cubs got on the board when Starlin Castro grounded out in the first inning. He drove in David DeJesus, who led off the inning with a triple off Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. Second baseman Darwin Barney scored the Cubs’ second run after an error in the second inning.