Although Anthony Rizzo has developed into an All-Star for the Chicago Cubs, he has yet to demonstrate that level of play against his former team.
The slugger may be able to turn that around Tuesday night since he is hitting left-handers well and has a homer against the San Diego Padres’ Eric Stults, who looks to avoid falling to 0-8 on the road in the opener of a three-game set.
Rizzo was acquired from San Diego (43-55) on Jan. 6, 2012, and has quickly become one of the main building blocks for Chicago. He made his first All-Star appearance last week and has 23 homers to vie for the NL lead with Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton.
The first baseman is 8 for 24 with three homers during a six-game hitting streak, with the Cubs (40-57) losing the last five. He went deep in Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Arizona to match his home run total from last season.
"We need to just win," Rizzo told MLB’s official website. "It’s another close game. We keep fighting and we’re in a position to tie it up. We didn’t come through, but we have to keep grinding."
Rizzo went 2 for 13 as Chicago split four games in San Diego from May 22-25. His .218 batting average and .345 slugging percentage against the Padres are his lowest figures against any NL opponent since he joined the Cubs.
However, Rizzo is one of the top lefty-swinging hitters against southpaws with a .312 average. He is 2 for 10 against Stults (3-11, 4.98 ERA), but hit a two-run homer off the lefty on May 22.
Stults gave up five runs over 4 2-3 innings in that 5-1 defeat to fall to 1-5 with a 5.15 ERA in seven career starts against the Cubs. He is 0-7 with a 5.44 ERA in 10 road starts and 0-3 with a 5.75 ERA in four outings at Wrigley Field.
Chicago second baseman Darwin Barney is 6 for 12 with four doubles off Stults. Nate Schierholtz is 4 for 8 against Stults but he’s baseball’s worst batter at .199 and is hitless in 19 at-bats.
Stults, who leads the NL in losses, owns baseball’s lowest run support average at 2.63.
That’s not surprising since the Padres are averaging 2.97 runs for baseball’s lowest mark since the 1972 California Angels averaged 2.93. San Diego’s .215 batting average is the second-worst in the majors over the last 103 years to the 1968 New York Yankees’ .214 mark.
Yasmani Grandal has provided a jolt to the offense with solo homers in consecutive wins, including one in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the New York Mets.
The Padres prevailed on Seth Smith’s RBI infield single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in which Mets pitcher Josh Edgin stumbled and failed to field the ball in time.
"That was an unusual one," manager Bud Black said. "The walk-off, high chopper, pitcher stumbles, can’t recover, game over. That was a good one."
The Cubs will start right-hander Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 6.00), who allowed four runs in six innings July 10 in a 6-4, 12-inning win at Cincinnati in his big league debut. His first seven pitches were balls and he gave up three first-inning runs before settling down.