Hot bats, patient approach serving Cubs well

Strong production coming from top of order

Hot bats, patient approach serving Cubs well

PHOENIX -- Anthony Rizzo matched a career-high with six RBIs Thursday night in a 14-6 win over the D-backs, but the beauty of the Cubs' offense right now is that it's not relying on one player.

The first five Chicago batters -- Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Rizzo and Kris Bryant -- combined to go 11-for-21 with eight walks and scored 12 runs.

"The story's about the offense," Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey said. "These guys are swinging."

What's key is that they're swinging at the right time.

"We had great at-bats," manager Joe Maddon said. "You look at the numbers and the hits, but it's because the at-bats are being worked so well. We're not chasing out of the zone, we're making pitchers come over the plate up and down the lineup. That's the beauty of the whole group right now."

The Cubs did lead the National League last season in pitches per plate appearance, and the additions of Heyward and Zobrist have only strengthened that concept -- and lengthened the lineup.

"We just want to keep going, grind at-bats," Rizzo said. "We walked 10 times today. That's a formula for winning -- get on base and let guys do their job.

"Pitchers are going to have to grind right away," Rizzo said. "That's what we want. We want them to grind from the first pitch to the last pitch they throw. We're doing a good job of working counts."

And taking care of the little things as well.

In the third inning, Heyward singled and Zobrist walked to set up an RBI single by Rizzo. Bryant then popped up to catcher Welington Castillo, who made the catch while falling backward. Rizzo, though, took advantage of the moment and broke for second. Castillo's throw sailed into center field for an error, allowing a run to score and tie the game at 4.

"It's tag up, and you see 'Welly' going back like that and you see him tumble and you see him sit for a second, and it's just instincts there," Rizzo said.

"He's good," Maddon said of Rizzo. "He's really focused. They all are. I was really just watching, and we're normally pretty fun. They weren't uptight but they were really focused. I love it, absolutely love it. We're coming to play right now. It's been a combination of really well thought out at-bats."

Rizzo also hit a two-run triple in the fourth and a three-run homer in the ninth.

"It's fun to watch," Lackey said of the Cubs. "They grind out at-bats, and when they get in their counts, they do damage."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.