Rizzo's blast, first four-hit game spark Cubs

Rizzo's blast, first four-hit game spark Cubs

Rizzo's blast, first four-hit game spark Cubs
NEW YORK -- Just call it the Rizzo effect.

Anthony Rizzo notched his first four-hit game, including a three-run home run, and Reed Johnson also had four hits, as well as a solo home run, to back Travis Wood, powering the Cubs to an 8-7 nail-biter win over the Mets on Friday night.

Carlos Marmol made it interesting in the ninth when he served up a solo homer to Jordany Valdespin, then walked the bases loaded. Pinch-hitter Ike Davis hit a two-run single, but Marmol caught a liner from Lucas Duda and threw to first for a game-ending double play.

"It was just a little hiccup tonight," Johnson said of Marmol, who had converted his last seven save opportunities. "Hopefully, that spirals back into doing things the right way. If that game gets away from us, I think the confidence goes a different way. Hopefully, his confidence can stay where it's been the last week or so."

The Cubs' bullpen was short-handed, and Chris Volstad was ready in the bullpen in case the Mets tied the game.

Maybe Rizzo can pitch, too. So far, the Cubs have won seven of the 10 games he's started. What's impressed Cubs manager Dale Sveum about the youngster?

"Everything, really," Sveum said. "His defense, his ability to hit left-handed pitching. ... He's just a very impressive young man, and the way he handles himself and the leadership skills he has and the no panic so far in the eight or nine games that he's been here [are impressive]."

The Mets just saw Rizzo at Wrigley Field, when he made his Cubs debut on June 26. His home run Friday marked his fourth game-winning RBI, and he now has 15 hits in 10 games. He totaled 18 hits in 49 games last season with the Padres. If he keeps up this pace, Rizzo could finish with 30 homers.

His teammates, though, are making sure Rizzo knows his place. He had to sing on the team bus Thursday after the game in Atlanta. His choice? Appropriately enough, it was Bill Wither's "Lean on Me."

"For 10 games, he's been pretty good," Sveum said. "He makes adjustments, he watches and to sit on pitches like he does and have an educated guess is pretty dang good. It wasn't going to happen, but it would've been nice [to have him] for 162 [games]. He had to develop and be down there and that's part of it, and he's doing a heck of a job."

It was nice for Rizzo to put up the numbers with his parents and family in town, too.

"He's good, and you know the thing that stands out to me the most is just how calm he is," Johnson said. "He's not going to get too up or too down, and that's really what you need in this game because there's so much failure. He's going to go through a stretch where things aren't going to go his way. Having that even keel is something you need to stick around a long time."

Johnson got things started against Johan Santana (6-5) with a leadoff home run, his first leadoff blast since July 23, 2007, which also came off the lefty when he pitched for the Twins.

It not only set the tone, but also justified an observation by Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss, who told Johnson he was standing too far off the plate. The switch paid off with a pinch-hit single on Thursday and the four-hit game Friday. Whatever works.

Wood's scoreless-innings streak ended at 19 2/3 when Duda homered with one out in the second to tie the game, and Ronny Cedeno added an RBI double in the third. The Mets' lead was short-lived as the Cubs tied the game in the fourth on Joe Mather's sacrifice fly.

Johnson singled to open the fifth and accidentally stepped on Santana's right ankle as the pitcher was trying to keep his foot on the bag. Darwin Barney then singled and Rizzo followed with his home run, a towering shot to right, to go ahead, 5-2. One out later, Jeff Baker hit a solo shot, his first non-pinch-hit home run, and the Cubs added another run on Luis Valbuena's RBI single to chase Santana.

"Even though I twisted it, I didn't know what happened at the time," said Santana, who matched a career high by giving up 13 hits. "I didn't know if he stepped on it or anything. I just wanted to continue with trying to get some outs, and my execution was poor."

Wood (4-3) picked up his fourth straight win, giving up five hits over six-plus innings, although he wasn't as sharp as his previous three outings.

"It was a battle today," Wood said. "I didn't have the good command like I've had the last couple starts, but I was able to keep them off-balance and pitch a decent ballgame."

With the win, the Cubs are 7-18 against left-handed starters, and four of those wins have come with Rizzo in the lineup. He talks to other hitters about pitchers and their tendencies, he studies and he listens. It's working.

"I'm just trying not to do too much," Rizzo said. "You can try to get big on lefties, but I've realized it's not going to work, and you just let your swing take care of itself and keep it as simple as possible. It's developing still."

It's developing nicely for the Cubs.

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.