Last year, the Cubs’ thoughts on Dexter Fowler were, “you go, we go.” Unfortunately for them, Fowler has since joined the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now, the Cubs need Anthony Rizzo to assume that role. Obviously, Rizzo is nowhere near as fast as Fowler and cannot manufacture runs like he can, but the Cubs need Rizzo to produce in a different way. They have now made it to two consecutive postseasons, and Rizzo has been a crucial part of their offense both years.
In 2015, Rizzo struggled throughout the postseason, batting just .188. The Cubs went on a good run, but eventually lost to the New York Mets in the NLCS.
Rizzo had a much different postseason in 2016, batting .277 and leading them to their first World Series win in 108 years. If the Cubs are going to beat the Nationals in the NLDS, they need Rizzo to produce like the middle-of-the-lineup threat that he is.
When the Cubs were struggling in the first half of the regular season, Joe Maddon experimented with the batting order. At one point, Rizzo was the leadoff hitter and reached base safely to begin his first seven games in the leadoff spot, including three homers. Oddly enough, this is when the Cubs began to turn things around. When Rizzo goes, the Cubs go.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, Rizzo had a bit of a weak finish to the regular season. He hit just .239 in September, went 1-for-14 in his last five games, and hit his final home run over two weeks before the end of the regular season.
The Cubs and Nats both have elite pitching staffs, so runs will be at a premium throughout the series. Rizzo plays a crucial role in the heart of the Cubs’ lineup, and must perform in order for them to score.