Day off or not, Rizzo a different hitter

MILWAUKEE – Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo doesn’t want to completely admit that having his first day off of the season Friday was connected to his two-homer game Saturday, but taking it easy certainly wasn’t a bad thing.

“It was nice just to be able to watch the game and slow the game down,” Rizzo said after Saturday’s 8-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. “Slow life down a little bit while on the bench. Today was a good day.”

Rizzo took over the team lead in home runs by hitting his ninth and 10th, both off starter Wily Peralta with a man on base, to help the Cubs pull away.

“They’re grinding out every day,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “I think in baseball it’s not a physical day off as much as it’s a mental day off.”

In truth, the downtime probably wasn’t responsible for Rizzo’s big day at the plate. The 24-year-old has become a better and more mature hitter in his second full season in the big leagues, or at least through the first two months of that second season. His on-base percentage is up to .397 as the calendar turns to June. A year ago at this time it was hovering around .320. That stat right there tells the story of his turnaround -- not a day off.

“Having a day off is kind of weird,” Rizzo said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Renteria saw a player who needed it.

“He was very relaxed [Friday],” Renteria said of Rizzo. “Really just took in the game. That’s what you want him to do.”