Rizzo’s HR, two doubles lead Cubs to 7-3 win
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 10, 2014 9:41PM
Updated: June 10, 2014 10:27PM
PITTSBURGH – Gregory Polanco, one of the top prospects in baseball, had barely settled into his position in right field for his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night when the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo air mailed him a welcome-to-the-big-leagues postcard – sending a two-run home run directly over Polanco into the back row of the right-field bleachers.
Rizzo added a pair of doubles and scored three times as the Cubs went on to a 7-3 victory over the Pirates in the second game of a four-game series at PNC Park.
A game that history may recognize one day as Polanco’s first, and the one in which he got his first hit, if the celebrated young outfielder becomes the All-Star many project.
Rizzo knows the feeling – twice over. He was the hot-shot prospect who tore up AAA pitching in 2011 before struggling when the San Diego Padres called him up that year. Then he spent half a season in the Cubs’ system hitting even better at AAA in 2012, before a mid-season callup that made headlines and turned into a successful half-season finish for the Cubs.
“I’m sure they’ve been hearing nothing but what he’s been doing in the minors since April,” said Rizzo, whose production Tuesday backed 6 2/3 strong pitching by Travis Wood (6-5).
“So now he’s finally up there. I hope he does well. A lot of these guys get a lot of hype, and it’s not easy just to come right into the big leagues and face Travis Wood throwing cutters.”
Wood (6-5) gave up Polanco’s first big-league hit, an opposite-field single to left. And MVP Andrew McCutchen made him pay when he hit the next pitch over the center-field wall for a tying home run.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano left the game after suffering “discomfort in his left side” after throwing warmup pitches before the fourth inning.
Wood got through a rough fourth but then allowed just two infield singles until one out in the seventh, when Josh Harrison doubled. By then he had a four-run lead.
On Polanco, Wood said: “Looks like he’s got some potential. He’s a real big kid. It’s a limited sighting, but he’s got an idea up there at last, for sure.”
Cubs manager Rick Renteria, a former first-round draft pick of the Pirates who later played for Seattle, compared Polanco to a legend after watching a one-game, 1-for-5 performance.
“I thought his swing direction and path was a little [Ken] Griffey-ish-like,” Renteria said. “But I guess time will tell us exactly where he’s actually at. But he looks like he’s going to be a good player.”
So when does the Cubs’ Class AA phenom Kris Bryant get his big day like Polanco?
“I get all of the [clamor and buzz],” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “But I’m not going to base our thinking on what other people are doing. We have to do what we think is right for us and how the guys are moving forward. And right now we’re really happy how they’re performing.”