Rizzo leads off, goes long; Happ hits slam as Cubs rout Mets (Jun 13, 2017)
NEW YORK (AP) Joe Maddon had a big idea to turn around his slumping Chicago Cubs.
How big? About 240 pounds, right at the top of the batting order.
Anthony Rizzo began the game with a long home run after a surprising move to the leadoff spot, rookie Ian Happ hit his first career grand slam and the Cubs trounced the New York Mets 14-3 on Tuesday night.
''It just worked out perfectly,'' Maddon said.
Backed by a season-best seven-run second inning, the World Series champs snapped a nine-game skid on the road and moved back to .500 through 64 games. The Cubs had lost five of six overall.
Jon Lester (4-4) earned his 150th win and matched a season high with 10 strikeouts. He allowed a run and five hits over seven innings.
Rizzo, batting leadoff for the first time in his career, had two hits, three RBIs and a bases-loaded walk. He's reached safely in 21 of his last 36 plate appearances.
''The thing is, he's not impacted by that,'' Maddon said of moving Rizzo around the lineup. ''He kind of has fun with it. He doesn't look at it in any other ways except it's going to be fun.''
Rizzo got the Cubs rolling with a 462-foot shot to center field off Zack Wheeler (3-4). Chicago then batted around in the second, and the biggest blow came when Happ went the opposite way with the bases loaded for his sixth homer.
Every starter for the Cubs had at least one hit by the fourth inning, including Lester, who also drew a walk in the sixth. Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez also went deep for Chicago, which matched a season high for runs and had 15 hits. Albert Almora Jr. had three hits and a walk.
''They all looked better,'' Maddon said.
Rizzo became the seventh Cubs player to bat leadoff this season, getting the nod from Maddon because Ben Zobrist is nursing a left wrist injury, and Kyle Schwarber and Happ have been struggling.
Except for his thick frame, Rizzo looked the part of a traditional leadoff man in his second plate appearance. After falling behind 0-2, he choked way up the bat and battled back for a bases-loaded, two-out walk. Happ's slam came in the next at-bat against Wheeler.
''He sets a great example of how to work an at-bat,'' Maddon said of Rizzo.
Rizzo also legged out an RBI double in the third.
Rizzo entered Tuesday with a .390 on-base percentage this season, while Chicago had a .306 OBP from the leadoff spot - which ranked 24th in the majors. Dexter Fowler was a regular atop the lineup when the Cubs won the World Series last year, but he signed a free agent contract with St. Louis in the offseason.
Maddon plans to keep Rizzo in the leadoff spot Wednesday against New York, and he's ready for an extended stay up there.
''You know what? Let's go on a run now,'' Rizzo said. ''That'd be great. Just keep winning, no matter what.''
Wheeler threw 46 pitches in the second and set career worsts with eight earned runs allowed in 1 2/3 innings.
''I don't know,'' he said. ''I just didn't feel it tonight. That's unfortunate. I put us in a hole early.''
Mets starters had given up one run or fewer in six straight games, the team's best run since 2010, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. New York had won four straight and five of six.
Lester tied Jered Weaver in seventh place for wins among active pitchers. Cubs teammate John Lackey ranks third with 180, and Atlanta's Bartolo Colon is first with 235.
What does the accomplishment mean to Lester?
''It means I'm old,'' he said.
ALL OR NOTHING
Happ also struck out four times, dropping his average to .207.
YO ALL GOOD?
Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes was back in the lineup a day after being lifted with a sore left heel. He was replaced in left field after five innings by Curtis Granderson because of the ''game situation,'' the team announced. New York trailed 9-1 at the time. Cespedes was 2 for 2 with an RBI double.
Mets right fielder Jay Bruce jumped and reached over the wall to rob Schwarber of a leadoff home run in the eighth.
Neil Walker and Lucas Duda hit back-to-back solo homers for New York in the ninth.
Schwarber moved to catcher for the final two innings, his third appearance behind the plate this season.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (hand tendinitis) felt more discomfort throwing on the side, dashing hopes that he might start this weekend in Pittsburgh. Hendricks might have further tests, including an MRI.
Mets: SS Asdrubal Cabrera was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left thumb sprain. It's the same injury that landed him on the DL last month. Manager Terry Collins said he did not discuss calling up shortstop prospect Amed Rosario from Triple-A to fill in. INF T.J. Rivera was recalled instead. ... OF Michael Conforto was held out of the lineup for a second straight day with a stiff back.
Cubs: LHP Mike Montgomery (0-3, 2.43 ERA) makes his second start since replacing Hendricks in the rotation.
Mets: RHP Matt Harvey (4-3, 5.02) pitched five scoreless innings against Atlanta last time out.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball