Castro, Rizzo lead Cubs to 9-4 win over Reds
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sports Reporter April 30, 2014 9:59PM
Updated: April 30, 2014 11:05PM
CINCINNATI – After two days of rain in Cincinnati, it was as if the skies parted to shine a light on the vision these guys in the clubhouse have been talking about all month.
Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro starting things with big games at the plate, and a young bullpen with big arms holding one-run lead until another big offensive inning late.
It added up to a 9-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park that matched the Cubs’ season-high for runs and salvaged a second victory on a rain-shortened, five-game trip through Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
One game didn’t exactly get the Cubs out of last place or erase an otherwise downtrodden first month of baseball.
But the way Rizzo and Castro finished the month suggested the two guys with the seven-year contracts might have big rebound seasons coming this year – especially compared to how they struggled at this time a year ago.
And the way the bullpen has pitched especially since Jose Veras was put on the disabled list Saturday has been high performance and high octane.
The pen hasn’t allowed a run in 10 innings since then – with 10 strikeouts and just one walk (with six hits allowed).
Brian Schlitter, Wesley Wright, Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon combined for 3 1/3 on Wednesday, including an especially powerful and impressive eighth for the rookie Ramirez.
“It’s definitely going to create a buzz around our division and the league, knowing that the Cubs have those power arms,” said Rizzo, who started things off with a two-run homer in the first, then walked four times. “We’ve just got to score runs and let our pitching do the rest.”
Rizzo is one of only two Cubs in at least 100 years to hit a home run and walk four times in the same game (also Hee-seop Choi in 2003 against the Reds).
Castro went 3-for-4 with a walk and pair of doubles, and he drove in his team-leading 14th RBI of the season. He takes a .308 average and .471 slugging percentage into May.
“I think there’s still a lot of upside,” Rizzo said, summing up a 9-17 April. “We’ve shown glimpses of it. And a glimpse tonight with our bullpen coming in and locking that game down – that was pretty impressive.
“If we score runs – and guys are swinging the bats well [lately] – we’re going to start winning some ballgames and get back in it.”