Anthony Rizzo removed from Cubs’ victory over the Nationals with lower back tightnessRussell Dorseyon May 19, 2021 at 3:46 am

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

First baseman goes down just as team starts to get healthy

The Cubs have started to play better baseball over the last three weeks and some of that has to do with the team getting healthier.

But they’ll now have to deal with another injury, at least in the short term, as first baseman Anthony Rizzo left Tuesday’s 6-3 victory against the Nationals with lower back tightness.

Rizzo grounded out to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman to end the third inning, but when he came out on defense, there was clearly something wrong.

Before starter Zach Davies could make his first pitch in the fourth inning, time was called as Rizzo was trying to stretch his back out and get loose. Manager David Ross and assistant athletic trainer Nick Frangella immediately came out to check on him, but after a lengthy conversation, he stayed in the game.

Ironically, the next play, Kyle Schwarber ripped a sharp groundball to Rizzo, but on a ball that the four-time Gold Glove award winner fields cleanly, he struggled to get down to make a play as the ball caromed off his glove.

Rizzo was clearly in some discomfort and when the Cubs returned to the field in the fifth, Ross removed him from the game with Kris Bryant moving to first base.

The 31-year-old first baseman has a lengthy history of back problems over his 11-year career. Rizzo dealt with some back issues before the 60-game season in 2020.

If Rizzo is forced to miss any time, Bryant likely would take over at first base.

The Cubs were close to full strength with Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ returning from the injured list last week.

While Rizzo’s injury put a damper Tuesday evening for the Cubs, it didn’t stop them from keeping their foot on the gas against the Nationals. As has often been the case over the last two weeks, it was the Cubs’ offense that led the way.

Washington tied things at 2-2 in the fifth inning after Starlin Castro’s solo homer ended Davies’ night. But the offense got Davies off the hook in the bottom of the inning as Bryant’s RBI single gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.

“I’ve seen the entire group really, the contact has just gone through the roof, I think in general,” Ross said. “The singles have played a lot more into driving guys in and having success. Guys are still understanding that with two strikes with the ability to put the ball in play. I think that’s contagious.

“I think our offense has been doing that for a little while now.”

Third baseman David Bote extended the lead in the sixth, crushing a 407-foot two-run shot for a 5-3 lead. Center fielder Ian Happ added a solo shot in the eighth.

Davies had his fourth consecutive start allowing three runs or less. He went five-plus innings, allowing three runs with a walk and a strikeout.

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