Rizzo's Return Not Enough For Cubs In Crushing Loss

Anthony Rizzo homered in an unexpected return, but the Cubs fell to the Cardinals.

Bruce Levine
September 19, 2019 - 11:45 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- An evening that began with a surprising and energizing return from Anthony Rizzo ended in more disappointment for the Cubs.

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Matt Carpenter hit the go-ahead homer in the 10th inning off Craig Kimbrel, lifting the Cardinals to a 5-4 win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday night. With the loss, the Cubs dropped four games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and a game behind the Brewers for the second wild-card spot.

Sidelined since Sept. 1 with elbow inflammation, Kimbrel was making his first appearance since being activated from the injured list earlier in the day. Carpenter hit a fastball down in the zone to center field to lift the Cardinals to the win.

"Physically, I felt great," Kimbrel said. "I thought the ball was coming out of my hand good. I just missed my pitch."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended the decision to use Kimbrel in a high-leverage spot in a crucial game despite his prolonged absence.

"We made that determination before the game," Maddon said. "We just wanted to be able to back him up. He strikes out two hitters and gave up a homer. Sometimes that happens."

That overshadowed a stunning return for Rizzo and a stunning three-run rally by the Cubs in the ninth inning. Just minutes before first pitch at Wrigley Field, Rizzo was inserted into the starting lineup, just four days after suffering a moderate right ankle sprain that was expected to keep him out at least through the weekend and perhaps the remainder of the regular season.

In the bottom of the third, Rizzo hit an opposite-field homer off Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty to the tie game at 1-1.

"Theo and the guys came into my office and said Rizz is feeling pretty good and wants to play," manager Joe Maddon said of the last-minute decision. "We watched him run just before the game was starting to see if he could do it. The doctors were all there and showed their support. He said he could do it, and he proved he could."

Rizzo had round after round of treatment over the past four days to give himself the chance to play Thursday.

"Once X-rays were negative (for a break), we just got on top of it and treated it," Rizzo said. "We did the whole RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) routine. We used ice compression. Just 24 hours at home with nurse Emily, my wife taking care of me. The first 48 hours were essential, and I said it didn't have a chance, but it was good enough for me to play today."

For most of the night, the Cubs were stymied by Flaherty, who threw eight innings of three-hit ball while striking out eight. Rizzo's solo homer was the only damage Flaherty allowed. The Cubs rallied for three runs in the ninth, all of them charged to Carlos Martinez. Ben Zobrist had an RBI double, Willson Contreras had an RBI infield single and Jason Heyward tied it with an RBI groundout.

That sent Wrigley Field into a frenzy, but Carpenter quieted the fans an inning later in a crushing loss for the Cubs.

"It's just all hands on deck," Rizzo said of playing through injury. "We have to win. Everyone is banged up and pushing themselves. It is mind over matter really."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.