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Rizzo's smarts show in 13-pitch at-bat

Rizzo's smarts show in 13-pitch at-bat

CHICAGO -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke knows that his team is going to have to figure out some way to get Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo out. The problem, Roenicke says, is that Rizzo is becoming a smarter hitter.

"Rizzo, when we first saw him, he's a guy that we knew was dangerous," Roenicke said on Tuesday. "And we know the pitches that he's dangerous on, and if you stayed away from those pitches, you got him out.

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"The guy has improved a lot in a short time. Now we go to some places where we used to get him out, and we didn't get him out. He's not chasing as many pitches out of the zone. So ... he becomes more dangerous."

And the Brewers know they have to face Rizzo and the National League Central-rival Cubs a lot. In the ninth inning of Monday's 3-1 loss, Rizzo went head to head against Francisco Rodriguez, and the two battled in a 13-pitch at-bat before Rizzo struck out. Rodriguez even threw a cutter, a pitch he admitted to never having thrown in a game.

"You get in an at-bat like that, and battle and battle and battle, and obviously, I didn't get the result I wanted, but I won that at-bat," Rizzo said. "[I'd say that if] it had been [Cubs catcher] John Baker pitching. To foul pitches off -- Frankie had some really good stuff. For me, personally, I'm just happy battling and getting my swing back to where it's good."

Rizzo struck out on the 13th pitch; in a perfect world, teams want pitchers to throw 12 to 15 pitches per inning.

"You always have to keep things in perspective -- who you're facing, what you're up against, what you have, how you're feeling, where the guys are at, and be realistic with that," hitting coach Bill Mueller said on Tuesday. "That's how I approach Riz. I'm realistic. I'm looking to the next at-bat, the next situation where you can have success, be positive and help your team. That's the approach."

And Roenicke? He'd rather not see Rizzo at the plate.

"This guy keeps getting better and better," Roenicke said. "It worries me. ... When you see a guy improve and do that kind of stuff ... This guy is going to be a really good player. He's a really good player now, but he's going to continue to get better."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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