Rizzo, Pederson lead Cubs hit parade in bounce-back win over Cardinals
In the 100-plus years that Wrigley Field has hosted the Chicago Cubs, there have been dozens of memorable moments.
The Sandberg Game. Babe Ruth's called shot. Kerry Wood striking out 20. Ernie Banks' 500th home run. Phillies 23, Cubs 22. "Let there be lights on 8/8/88." A 3-2 win over Cleveland in Game 5 of the 2016 World Series.
Just to name a few.
Well, we can add another to the list with Friday's 8-5 victory over the Cardinals as the venerable ballpark welcomed a capacity crowd for the first time in over a year. That was reason enough for the 35,112 to celebrate, but the reason they'll never forget this one stemmed from an incredible 14-pitch at-bat from Anthony Rizzo in the sixth inning.
The buzz began after Rizzo fouled off a fifth two-strike pitch and it only grew from there. By the 12th and 13th pitches, much of the crowd was on its feet, imploring Rizzo to do something special.
And, boy, did he deliver.
Rizzo put a wicked swing on a Ponce de Leon offering and ripped a shot into the right center-field bleachers that tied the game at 5-5. The crowd was in a full frenzy as Rizzo triumphantly rounded the bases, and he treated them to a curtain call after being greeted by a mob of joyous teammates in the dugout.
"Towards the fifth, sixth, seventh (pitch) everyone started getting into it more and more," Rizzo said. "It almost in a way helped me calm down and relax. I just kept saying to myself after I fouled off pitches, 'Stay locked in, stay locked in and calm down.'
"It was definitely one of my most memorable at-bats, with (the stadium) being 100 percent today for the first time and having everyone here vs. the Cardinals. It was a really good moment for me."
Said manager David Ross: "There's a couple memories and moments that stand out for me in my playing career here and that'll definitely be one that'll stick with me. That was special."
Joc Pederson's two-run double in the seventh that scored Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick made it 7-5. It completed an impressive 3-for-4 day by the Cubs' leadoff hitter and raised his average from .238 to .250.
Wilson Contreras added a solo homer in the eighth as the Cubs improved to 36-27.
Opening Day 2.0 -- as deemed by some -- began with Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, Lee Smith and Ferguson Jenkins taking part in first-pitch ceremonies. Actor/comedian Bill Murray also ramped up the crowd before singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" by screaming: "This is what it feels like to be 100 percent! And we're gonna be louder from right now until the last out in the top of the ninth inning. Understood?!?!"
For sure, they understood. And they roared like it was the playoffs after Craig Kimbrell notched his 16th save to complete the comeback from a 5-1 deficit.
"It was definitely rocking," Ross said. "The whole thing, it just felt like Opening Day. It really felt energetic. The outfield was packed, it was a beautiful day and it was a nice 'W.'
"We talked last year about some of the guys and do the fans matter? Does it impact guys? I mean clearly those fans helped us win that game. Rizzo's at-bat and they're on their feet. ... What an at-bat that was and the place erupts.
"That puts pressure on the opposing team. That puts a focus in you that makes you lock in a little better at the plate or on the mound.
"That was a really nice atmosphere out there today."
One that they won't forget anytime soon.