Rizzo's first homer with Cubs downs Astros

Rizzo's first homer with Cubs downs Astros

Rizzo's first homer with Cubs downs Astros
CHICAGO -- Where were you when Anthony Rizzo hit his first home run for the Cubs? His parents, John and Laurie Rizzo, were among the 37,906 at Wrigley Field who saw the blast, which the Cubs hope is the first of many.

Rizzo belted a go-ahead two-run homer, his first since being promoted from Triple-A and second game-winning hit in four games, to power the Cubs to a 3-2 win Saturday over the Astros and take the series.

Usually Rizzo nods his head when he crosses home plate to acknowledge his family in the stands. On Saturday, he pointed at them.

"It was good," John said. "We've been waiting for it -- his first home run as a Cub."

They're not the only ones.

The Cubs trailed 2-0 in the fifth against J.A. Happ when Luis Valbuena walked to lead off and moved up on Matt Garza's sacrifice. Starlin Castro then hit an RBI single, and Rizzo, who was leading the Pacific Coast League with 23 homers when called up Tuesday, connected on a 1-0 pitch in his 14th at-bat, launching the ball into the right-field bleachers to go ahead, 3-2.

This was Rizzo's second Major League blast; he hit one in his fourth at-bat last season with the Padres. It was one of the few highlights as he batted .141 in 49 games.

"It just feels good to get that win, and get that monkey off my back to get that home run," Rizzo said.

The Cubs may have finally found their No. 3 hitter.

"Four games, he's got two game-winning hits," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The formula of winning close games is not just having a third hitter but [Nos.] three, four and five who accumulate three runs a game, and in time, it's 600 runs they accumulate and that's the difference in winning a lot of one-run games. You can talk about pitching, but big time teams and winning teams have their three, four, five hitters who accumulate 600 runs a year. Those one-run games can turn into wins, instead of losses."

The ball hit the right-field seats and bounced back onto the field, and was inadvertently tossed into the stands by a ball girl. However, Wrigley Field staff were able to retrieve the souvenir. Sveum didn't care how it looked.

"As long as it goes over the fence, it don't matter how far or how high," Sveum said.

The rookie also had another RBI chance in the seventh. The Cubs had a runner at third and one out, and lefty Fernando Abad intentionally walked Starlin Castro to face Rizzo. He struck out, but Sveum saw positives.

"It definitely puts pressure on the other team and the manager and the bullpen and decisions," Sveum said of his one-two punch. "[Rizzo] had a pretty good at-bat off a guy who throws 94 miles an hour and the shadows there and a guy who throws a pretty good slider. It was still a good at-bat -- he got a little aggressive, but he fouled off some good sliders before that, too."

Rizzo wasn't surprised, either.

"Castro is a proven All-Star, and I'm just a rookie," he said. "I like it. I like the situation. I got a little too aggressive there, and I should've taken what they gave me."

He's worked on his at-bats against left-handers, as well as polishing his skills at first base, and the Cubs look as if they have an All-Star in the making. But Garza interrupted Rizzo's post-game interview in an effort to protect the 22-year-old.

"Get that guy out of the limelight a little bit," Garza said. "He's doing his thing, let him enjoy it. You only get to debut as a Cub one time. He's doing a great job producing and doing what he does. He's going to be a great one."

Garza picked up the win, his second in his last 10 starts. He gave up nine hits and walked three over a laborious 5 1/3 innings. He got some help from his defense.

"We get 10 hits," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "We'd like to string them together a little bit better on top of one another, but three double plays didn't help any."

"It was a day when you had to battle the elements," Garza said of the 92-degree heat. "It was a warm one. I felt like in the second inning, I was wearing a suit made out of water."

Jordan Schafer hit an RBI double in the Astros third, and Houston had a runner at third with two out who tried to score on Jed Lowrie's grounder to Rizzo, but he threw a perfect strike home for the out.

"Rizzo is very athletic over there," Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney said. "You saw by the throw he made to home plate -- he threw it right on the tag and threw it with velocity and I think that saved the game right there."

Most fans will say it was Rizzo's blast that was the highlight.

"I think a guy like him, he wants those RBIs, and he's probably going to be a little more aggressive," Sveum said. "He's 22 years old -- let's not forget how young he is. Young hitters walking 100 times, it just doesn't happen. For hitters, it takes some time for them to get to the 80-to-100 walk pace."

Rizzo is just happy to contribute.

"It's good to come into a new clubhouse and produce and help the team win," he said. "It's a lot of fun to do that."

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