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posted: 7/29/2012 7:19 PM

Rizzo proving to be the real deal

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  • The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo admires his 2-run walkoff home run in the 10th inning Sunday at Wrigley Field.

      The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo admires his 2-run walkoff home run in the 10th inning Sunday at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Cubs think their future looks pretty good with players such as Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.

The recent past hasn't looked so bad either, and Rizzo made Sunday a special one with a walk-off 2-run homer in the 10th inning to give the Cubs a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 2-1 series win.

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Castro led off the bottom of the 10th with a single against reliever Trevor Rosenthal, and Rizzo followed with an opposite-field home run into the left-field bleachers.

Since Rizzo came up from Class AAA Iowa on June 26, the Cubs are 17-10. A lot of nice things have happened for Rizzo and the Cubs since then, but Sunday's game-winner was something else again.

"This is the best," said the first baseman who turns 23 on Aug. 8. "This is something I've always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. I've never done it before, not in minors, not in Little League, not ever. So this is awesome."

Rizzo, who was 3-for-4 to up his batting average to .333, picked on an 0-1 offering from Rosenthal and calmly stroked it into the bleachers.

In all aspects, Rizzo has been everything he was cracked up to be.

"Yeah, he's been pretty good," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team improved to 42-58. "Pretty nice this early in his career to get his first walk-off in big-time fashion, a home run, too. So it was nice, especially off a guy throwing 97-98 miles an hour -- take the first pitch (and then) go opposite field. Didn't try to do too much with it, just put a good swing on it, and it was awesome."

The Cubs obtained Rizzo last winter in a trade with San Diego after various members of the new Cubs brass had him both with the Padres and Red Sox.

Rizzo and Castro are key components to what the Cubs hope will be a team that can win consistently for a long time. Others would seem to include second baseman Darwin Barney and even Sunday's starting pitcher, Paul Maholm.

Even though Barney's and Maholm's names have been mentioned in trade rumors, they appear to be the kind of players the Cubs can keep as they move forward.

Maholm didn't get the victory, but he was outstanding again, going 6 innings of 4-hit, 1-run ball as he lowered his ERA from 3.88 to 3.74.

He made some history, too, becoming the first left-handed starting pitcher in modern Cubs history (since 1900) to record 6 straight starts of at least 6 innings with 1 or no runs allowed. Was he aware of it?

"Not until you guys bring it up," he said. "I just try and go out there, and you battle throughout the game. I just go out there as long as I can as hard as I can and be aggressive and try to get ahead and get some groundballs. Fortunately the last month or so, it's been working out pretty well."

Maholm just turned 30, so he's not an oldster by any stretch. The Cubs have a club option on him for next year, and he said he'd like to be a part of things.

"I've said there's a reason I signed here," he said. "I've always enjoyed playing here throughout my career. There's an option. I finished the year last year (with Pittsburgh) hurt. They gave me chance to obviously come in and prove that I'm healthy, and I am. So hopefully, we can turn this into a long-term thing. We'll see how everything unfolds."

As for Rizzo, he said he wouldn't mind the company.

"Absolutely," he said. "Starlin is one of the most talented players I've ever played with, offensively and defensively. Darwin gets to balls I've never seen at second base. All the other guys in this clubhouse are tremendous so far. It's been a lot of fun. We're winning, and it's always fun when you win."

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