Veteran Rizzo leads surging Cubs into NLCS
The Chicago Cubs have a great starting pitcher in Jake Arrieta.
They have a flock of surging young sluggers, headed by Kris Bryant and Kyle "Babe" Schwarber.
They have the best manager in the game, Joe Maddon.
The great teams have a great leader, and the Cubs have one of those, too.
Not long after wrapping up the National League Division Series Tuesday with a 6-4 win over the Cardinals, Anthony Rizzo grabbed Schwarber and other teammates, hopped up on top of the Cubs' dugout and high-fived all the of the fans that have been waiting so long for something to celebrate.
A grizzled "veteran" of 26 who has been with the Cubs since 2012, Rizzo has lived through loss after loss for three straight years, but he never doubted better times were coming.
"I just remember getting here and some people telling me that this organization was maybe 30 or 40 years behind technology-wise," Rizzo said. "The things that (Cubs president) Theo (Epstein) and (general manager) Jed (Hoyer) did, and (scouting director) Jason (McLeod) and all the guys that came in with them, and Mr. (Tom) Ricketts, it starts with Mr. Ricketts giving them the ability to do all that.
"The things they did to turn this organization around and stuck with what they believed in is right. This is really nice and rewarding for them, for Mr. Ricketts, for Theo, and for this entire city, who have stuck behind us this entire time."
Rizzo started out slowly in the playoffs, but the first baseman homered for the second straight game Tuesday off St. Louis relief pitcher Kevin Siegrist.
The secodn homer was huge, as it came in the sixth inning and put the Cubs in front for good at 5-4. Siegrist challenged Rizzo with fastballs in Game 3 Monday and lost. He challenged Rizzo with sliders in Game 4 and lost again.
"There are no cat-and-mouse game with these teams," Rizzo said. "We know what everyone has. We know what their pitchers have. They know what we have. (Siegrist) has been tough on me my entire, every time I've faced him. I don't know how I got him, but just an unbelievable game overall."
And led by Rizzo, what an unbelievable run for a Cubs team that beat NL Central rival Pittsburgh in the wild-card game and division champion St. Louis in the NLDS.
"Iit's a shame that three of the best teams in baseball, one is only moving on to the championship series," Rizzo said. "That's two unbelievable clubs we just beat, the Pirates, who have an unbelievable organization, and the same with the Cardinals. We just beat a really good team. They know how to win.
"They've dealt with so many injuries and they still were the best team in baseball. But we're going to celebrate this. We deserve to celebrate this. It's been a long time coming for this city, and hopefully it's just a sign of things to come."
• Follow Scot's reports throughout the playoffs @scotgregor.