Keeping pace with what has been an exceptional week for this Chicago Cubs team, the Northsiders dispatched the lowly Houston Astros (who, sadly, have a better record than the Cubs….still) in three consecutive games – completing only their second series sweep of the year.
Of course, the primary thing most Cubs fans were interested in coming into this series was Anthony Rizzo, playing in his first full series with the Cubs – and he certainly didn’t disappoint. After an 0-4-with-a-walk performance in the opening game of the series, Rizzo plated the game-winning runs in both weekend games.
The two hits, though similar in result, couldn’t have been more different. On Saturday, Rizzo blasted a home run to right field for his first big-league homer as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, Sunday’s game-winner was a first pitch breaking-ball from Astros’ starter Wandy Rodriguez that Rizzo managed to pull to the right side.
The ball ended up sneaking through for an RBI single, but what’s more important to me is that, regardless of whether or not the ball went through, the run would have scored either way. Put simply, it was the perfect approach. And to make things even better for Rizzo and the Cubs, the go-ahead hit immediately followed an intentional walk to Starlin Castro.
Speaking of Castro, he, unfortunately, leads me to the negative part of this article. So far this season, Castro’s numbers have been on a sharp nose-dive and he’s been pretty terrible for the last month. Coming off an 0-3 (with an intentional walk) outing in the final game of the series, Castro’s batting average has slipped to .296 and his on-base percentage has dipped below .320.
Castro’s career OBP, prior to this season, sat right in the low-to-mid .340’s, which, while not spectacular, is much more acceptable. The most puzzling thing about this development is that it hasn’t been an issue all year. In April, Castro batted .333 and posted a .351 OBP – a few points above his career average. Then, in May, those numbers took a nose dive and he now finds himself getting on base at a really, really terrible rate.
So, what has happened? Part of it appears to be luck, as his BAbip (batting average on balls in play, basically a measure of luck) has been incredibly low the last month or two. Another part of it could be that he’s had no one to protect him in the lineup as of late. At the beginning of the year, when Bryan LaHair was tearing the cover off the ball, he did. Then, LaHair went into a deep slump and his protection disappeared.
But, at the end of the day, regardless of the reason, all that matters is that Castro picks it up again soon. Having another decent hitter near Rizzo in the lineup will make things much easier on the young man and give him a significantly better selection of pitches to swing at.
Next up for the Cubs will be a four-gamer against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta.
Series Stud- Travis Wood: 7.2 IP, 4 K, 3 H, O BB and a 2B at the plate
Series Dud- Starlin Castro: 1-for-9, 3 BB (2 intentional).
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