Rizzo, Chicago Cubs kick off homestand in a big way
If it's mid to late August, it must be American Legion Week for the Chicago Cubs.
Manager Joe Maddon ended Tuesday's pregame media briefing by honoring Danville American Legion Post 210.
American Legion baseball annually provides the inspiration for Maddon to ease off on the workload for his players by allowing them to show up later and cut back on pregame routines.
In Maddon's first four years of holding American Legion Week, his Cubs teams posted a record of 20-3.
They came out Tuesday and went back and forth with the San Francisco Giants before prevailing 5-3 at Wrigley Field. It was the Cubs' third win in a row as they improved to 67-58.
"The timing helps," Maddon said. "August is August. I've talked about it before. September provides its own energy. August, man, you've got to find it sometimes. We have taken 5,727 swings each at least, maybe it's 10,000. I don't know how many throws they've made. I don't know how many videos they've looked at. I don't know how many data sheets they've read.
"By this time in the summer, I've actually written it years ago, it's got to be at least 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, maybe 75-25.
"You get to this point, it's all mental over physical. You need to have that rested mind and body. They don't feel compelled to do certain things that they feel they may have to do to present the right image sometimes. A lot of this stuff is overplayed. A lot of it's eyewash. Just do what's necessary."
One player who seems open to American Legion Week is newcomer Nicholas Castellanos. He continued his hot hitting since coming over in a July 31 trade with the Detroit Tigers.
Castellanos hit his 18th homer of the season and his seventh with the Cubs in the first inning to give them a 1-0 lead against Tyler Beede. Two batters later, Anthony Rizzo hit the first of his 2 homers on the night to make it 2-0. Castellanos added a pair of singles.
"It's Joe's clubhouse," said Castellanos. "Joe can make whatever rules he wants. American Legion Week, cool. I've never had American Legion Week before."
The novelty of the week is OK with Rizzo, who has 25 homers for the year and 4 in his last five games.
"You get here late, it kind of throws some guys' routines off, but I think it helps this late in the year," he said.
Cubs starting pitcher Cole Hamels (7-4) gave up a 2-run homer to Austin Slater in the second. Rizzo's second homer came when he led off the third inning. Kevin Pillar homered to tie the game in the fourth, but Hamels managed to last 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs. The Cubs scored single runs in the fifth and seventh innings. Craig Kimbrel earned his 10th save.
Despite those who may want to see the Cubs working more, and not less, Maddon reiterated his belief that American Legion Week will pay off in the long run.
"When everybody's mind's fresher, you're going to get a better product," he said. "I believe that. Hopefully that trend continues. It's beginning today.
"Actually, the weather (steady afternoon rain) cooperated beyond expectations to make it even easier on those skeptics still."