Rizzo the All-Star might be a reality

PITTSBURGH – We’re past the point of wondering if Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is having a rebound season and on to figuring out if he’s an All-Star. Rizzo might make his first Midsummer Classic, especially if he has more nights like Tuesday, when he homered, doubled twice and drove in three runs in a 7-3 Cubs win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“That’s one of the things you dream of, being an All-Star,” he said after the game. “It’s a ways away. I’m just going to keep my head down until the All-Star break comes.”

By now you know where his turnaround from last year has come: against left-handed pitching. He's turned a .189 batting average in 2013 into .344 this year after taking southpaw Francisco Liriano out to right field in the first inning on Tuesday. It was his 13th home run of the season and fifth against a lefty. He had seven all of last year against left-handed pitching.

“You can’t think about hitting a home run ever,” Rizzo said. “At times when I’m trying to, I get big and I tend to miss my pitches. Miss good pitches to hit. If I stay within myself and let the game come to me -- but still be aggressive -- that’s the formula right now.”

Liriano had been kryptonite for Rizzo, as he was 2-for-17 off him coming into the game. But Rizzo didn’t stop even when the Pirates brought in a righty. In one of the stranger twists of the Cubs' season Rizzo has had his issues with right-handed pitching while hitting the lefties. His batting average was just .253 against righties coming into the night.

“Every time I face a lefty I feel like it gets me back right versus righties,” he said. “That’s how it’s been in the past as well.”

He doubled twice against right-handed pitching on Tuesday, but it’s still the success against lefties that has him in a good mood.

“At any level this is the best I’ve ever [felt],” Rizzo said of hitting lefties. “Just going to keep riding this momentum.”

But the question is, why? Why is he hitting lefties so much better this season?

“I feel very confident,” Rizzo answered. “That’s everything in this game. I don’t care what anyone says. Your mechanics can be good or bad, if you’re feeling confident at the plate it makes a huge difference.”

Envisioning this Rizzo in the middle of a batting order that consists of Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in the coming years has to keep the most pessimistic Cubs fan interested. Rizzo wasn’t as bad as everyone thought last year, but now he’s rounded out his game on offense. There have been more important hits this season and big ones against both righties and lefties.

“It’s a matter of not doing too much,” Rizzo said.

Not doing too much might land him in the All-Star Game for the first time.

“When the time comes if I make it, it’s great,” he declared.