At leadoff, Rizzo continues #ASGWorthy tear

First baseman goes 3-for-5 with home run, finishes triple short of cycle vs. Bucs

At leadoff, Rizzo continues #ASGWorthy tear

PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs may have found the perfect leadoff man, even if he doesn't seem to fit the mold.

Anthony Rizzo had three hits Sunday, including a two-run homer -- No. 150 of his career -- to help the Cubs beat the Pirates, 7-1. In five games as the leadoff man, Rizzo is 9-for-22 with three home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs.

"It's crazy, it's weird, it's funny but it's great," Rizzo said. "The game can't start until I get in the batter's box. The objective is, the pitcher is going to throw strike one, they want to get in a groove, and I have to be ready to hit."

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Rizzo and other #ASGWorthy players

Pirates starter Jameson Taillon knew he had to be ready.

"He's not your typical leadoff guy -- you're starting the game with a power hitter -- but I think they did it to try to get him better pitches to hit," Taillon said. "Obviously, as you saw, first [pitch] of the game he's swinging, double. That's a nice thing to have in your leadoff spot, but it doesn't really change too, too much."

Rizzo's ready all right.

"He's been swinging the bat better, plus there's the added incentive of doing it -- I think he likes to do it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Rizzo. "Right now, we're going to stay with it, I like it, and I think he's inspired the lineup."

Rizzo sizzles from leadoff spot

Kyle Schwarber was projected as the Cubs' leadoff man and could possibly return to that role. Right now, it's Rizzo's spot.

"He's going to give them a shot in the arm wherever he hits," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Rizzo. "He's a good hitter. … You've just got to come out of the chute ready to go. Most leadoff hitters are working to get on. You've just got to make good pitches. He can do a little more damage than most."

Rizzo doubled to lead off the game, and scored one out later on Willson Contreras' double. With the double, Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 12 games, which matches a career high. He singled in the third and scored on Contreras' second double, and then homered in the seventh. According to Statcast™, the home run had an exit velocity of 105 mph and traveled 425 feet to center.

"I don't know if he's ever hit leadoff before in his whole life," Chicago's Kris Bryant said. "I did in college, and it's hard to do. He's unbelievable -- he's the man.

"You look at him, he's a middle-of-the-order first baseman," Bryant said. "He's on base all the time now. It's always nice when you can get to their pitcher with the first at-bat of the game. Hopefully, he can keep that up."

During Rizzo's 12-game hitting streak, he's batting 18-for-44 with four homers, five doubles, 11 walks and 15 RBIs.

How long does he want to do this?

"If we win ballgames, I'll be the leadoff hitter for the rest of my career," Rizzo said. "It's all about winning. Obviously, it's different, but it is what it is."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.