Rizzo's two blasts carry Cubs at Miami

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- After hitting two homers measuring a combined total of 837 feet, it was -- oddly -- a meaningless single that pleased Anthony Rizzo the most.

The Cubs' first baseman, returning to his South Florida roots, blasted two home runs and had all four RBI to lead Chicago to a 4-2 win over the Miami Marlins on Friday night.

But it was Rizzo's eighth-inning single to left, which gave him a 3-for-4 night and improved his batting average to .200, that most satisfied the slugger.

"It was a good day, especially after looking at the video after the game," said Rizzo, who now has eight homers and 18 RBI this month. "The swing was where I wanted it. I'm not going to get into specifics, but the finish had been kind of high, even on some of the home runs.

"It may sound stupid, but the single in my last at-bat was my favorite (hit) because that was my swing there -- stay inside the ball. If I get beat, I can do that."

Rizzo, who played his high school ball at Parkland Douglas -- about a half-hour drive from Marlins Park -- estimates 75 to 100 friends came to watch him play Friday.

"After yesterday, this means a lot," said Rizzo, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Thursday's game against the Marlins. "This feels good after (Thursday, which) was a little embarrassing."

Playing before an announced crowd of 16,017, Rizzo hit a two-run homer to center in the first inning and a two-run shot to right to help pitcher Scott Feldman gain his first win in his past 11 starts.

Feldman (1-3) was winless in his last eight starts with the Texas Rangers last season and the same thing happened in his first three outings this year. He was 0-8 during that span.

He was much better against the Marlins before getting in trouble in the seventh, allowing a walk to Rob Brantly, a double to Chris Coghlan and a sacrifice fly to Chris Valaika, making it 4-2.

But with two on and two out, reliever James Russell bailed out Feldman, getting Juan Pierre to fly out to shallow left field.

Shawn Camp pitched a scoreless eighth and Kevin Gregg worked the ninth to pick up his second save.

"I think Riz was the story of the game," Feldman said. "He swung the bat great and gave us that early cushion."

About his pitching, Feldman said he has worked hard to get his sinker going, a pitch that is hard to develop in spring training in Arizona.

"You have to take your lumps and bruises sometimes," Feldman said, "but I think the stuff we've been working on in spring is starting to carry over."

Rizzo's first home run, which traveled 420 feet, scored leadoff batter Dave Sappelt, who had opened the game with a single to center.

Just like that, three batters into the game, the Cubs had a 2-0 lead against Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc, who has allowed 10 earned runs in five first innings this season and just seven runs in subsequent innings.

"At some point, I have to figure out something to do to give these guys a shot," LeBlanc said about putting his team in a bind with his first-inning struggles. "I can't keep forcing these guys to try to hit from behind from the very first inning."

Things got worse for LeBlanc in the third, when Rizzo pulled a pitch down the right-field line for another two-run homer. This shot also scored Sappelt, who had reached on an infield single.

Rizzo's second shot traveled 413 feet in his second two-homer game in the big leagues, matching what he did Sept. 16, 2012 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Marlins got one run back on a fourth-inning home run by first baseman Joe Mahoney that traveled 423 feet to right field. It was the first career homer for Mahoney, who pulled the pitch into the upper deck.

Mahoney said he traded a cap and a bat -- both autographed -- to get back the ball he hit for his first major-league dinger.

"In the heat of the moment, I was just thinking that now we're down three runs," Mahoney said. "But I'll reflect on it more tonight.

"It's starting to sink in. It's good to get the first one out of the way. I've been waiting for this for a while."

NOTES: On Thursday afternoon, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said injured third baseman Ian Stewart would have to win his starting job back once he returns from the disabled list. That was a few hours before current third baseman Luis Valbuena hit a ninth-inning home run to help beat the Marlins 4-3. Earlier in the week, Valbuena hit a homer in the 13th inning against the Reds. Valbuena entered Friday hitting .237 with four homers and nine RBI. Stewart was hitting just .083 in four rehab starts at Class AAA Iowa. ... The biggest crowd of the year at Marlins Park was last Saturday, when 40,000 attended a sermon by televangelist Joel Osteen. ... Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis, who has yet to play this year because of a collarbone injury, is hoping to participate in his first rehab game on Wednesday. ... Cubs right-hander Matt Garza, scratched from Wednesday's rehab start because of arm soreness, participated in long toss on Friday. He could get another rehab start next week in hopes of soon rejoining a rotation that entered Friday with a 2.97 ERA, tied for second best in the National League. ... Meanwhile, ESPN's Buster Olney said Garza will be one of baseball's top four candidates to be traded before this summer's deadline. ... Former Cubs star and current Marlins executive Andre Dawson, 58, revealed Thursday that he had battled prostate cancer and is now cancer free.
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