Believe it or not, Carlos Marmol isn’t the Cubs’ biggest problem these days.
Marmol will be gone soon enough, either through an in-season trade or in the fall, when his contract expires.
But it’s a couple of “core” (to use management’s term) players who have struggled mightily of late. Although manager Dale Sveum talked of giving shortstop Starlin Castro a rest, he actually did so with first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The slumping Rizzo did not start for the first time all season in Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Rizzo, who did not play at all, entered the game with an overall hitting line of .241/.327/.444 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI.
However, Rizzo has not hit a home run since May 18, and June has been rough. Rizzo is just 8-for-51 and has a line of .157/.348/.196 for an OPS of .544. Only 2 of the hits this month for Rizzo have been for extra bases.
Sveum even moved Rizzo from the third spot to the fifth hole recently to take some of the pressure off, but on Tuesday, it was a night off.
“Once you get a decent sample, the other teams know he’s vulnerable to this or vulnerable to that, but the bottom line is we all know hitting comes down to when you get a good pitch, do something with it,” Sveum told reporters before the game. “Just like Castro, you see him get a lot of good pitches, but there are a lot of foul balls back to the screen. You’re putting the at-bat in the pitcher’s hand once you’ve missed his mistake or two mistakes in an at-bat.
“It’s not like major-league pitchers make three (mistakes) in an at-bat. You become vulnerable when you’re not hitting mistakes.”
Rizzo, whose personality is low-key, seemed to take things in stride.
“It’s nice to get a breather,” said Rizzo, as quoted by cubs.com. “Last year, I had a couple days off, and came back like I normally am. You’re going to have good times and bad times, and it’s one of the down times for myself personally. It’s frustrating. The game is beating me up a little bit. I think it’ll be nice to relax and enjoy the game from the bird’s eye.
“I feel real close. It’s just a matter of trying to do too much.”
Castro hasn’t been much better this month, but he’s gotten most of the attention, and he also has bounced around in the batting order. He entered Tuesday 9-for-59 in June and had a line of .153/.206/.220 with no homers and 3 RBI. He went 0-for-4 Tuesday, with his season average falling to .238.
Things got under way just fine for the Cubs against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. After Wainwright got 2 quick outs to start the game, the Cubs got back-to-back doubles from Nate Schierholtz and Alfonso Soriano, a 2-run homer from Ryan Sweeney and a solo shot from Cody Ransom, Rizzo’s replacement at first base.
The beneficiary was starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who improved to 4-7 with a 3.35 ERA with 81⁄3 innings of solid work. The Cardinals scored a run in the ninth, but Kevin Gregg nailed down his 10th save in 10 chances.
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