Anthony Rizzo, Travis Wood keep rolling as Cubs edge Mets
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com July 6, 2012 11:20PM
Anthony Rizzo follows the flight of his three-run home run in the fifth inning off Johan Santana. | Frank Franklin II~AP
Updated: August 8, 2012 6:14AM
NEW YORK — Before the last game in Atlanta this week, Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted he wondered what might have been if he’d had Anthony Rizzo in his lineup all year.
‘‘I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,’’ Sveum said.
The next game, Rizzo lit up the New York night in his 10th game as a Cub with four hits, including a three-run homer that produced his fourth game-winning RBI, in an 8-7 victory Friday against the Mets.
In fact, by the time another quality start from Travis Wood played out in a second consecutive win against two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, Sveum would probably be lying if he said he couldn’t have used this guy all year, too.
Wood’s fifth start out of seven against a Cy Young opponent turned into a fourth consecutive victory after he pitched into the seventh despite not having his good stuff.
‘‘It’s really been a boost,’’ Rizzo said of Wood, a minor-league teammate until Wood’s May 22 call-up. ‘‘He goes out there pretty much every time like, ‘Oh, he faced another ace today.’ And he competes. … He’s pitching as well as I’ve seen him pitch since I’ve been up here, and even before that.’’
That the Cubs beat the Mets in the opener of a three-game series and are one victory away from their first winning road trip since early last September might not mean much.
But where they go after the upcoming All-Star break — inevitable trades and all — could have a lot to do with Rizzo and Wood. And while the post-break schedule still might not have a lot of meaning beyond the Cubs’ draft position next June, it might just be a start.
What has Rizzo meant so far? ‘‘Everything really,’’ Sveum said before the game, listing his hitting, power, defense and poise.
The Cubs have won eight of their last 11 games, and Rizzo and Wood have been huge parts of that success, along with overall good starting pitching and solid fielding.
‘‘Execution,’’ pitcher Ryan Dempster said. ‘‘It comes down to that. It’s kind of a simple formula. If you execute pitches better and have better at-bats and play better defense, you’re going to have better results.
‘‘Obviously, Rizzo’s done a great job and kind of brought in that new energy, and things like that, you try to build off of.’’
As for Wood (4-3), he’s at least starting to quiet the critics who ripped the trade that sent lights-out lefty reliever Sean Marshall to Cincinnati last winter.
‘‘I don’t think he had the stuff he’s had the last few outings,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He was able to get outs when he needed them.’’
Rizzo, whose Cubs debut was pushed back a day to avoid Santana during the last homestand, has been impressive against the five lefty starters he has faced (6-for-17, two homers, six RBI).
‘‘Facing Johan today, I was very excited,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘I just tried not to do too much against him. He’s a great pitcher.’’