Ian Happ’s surge key amid absence of Ben Zobrist
With the expectation that Ben Zobrist could miss next week’s series against the National League East-leading Nationals, the Cubs are leaning more on rookie Ian Happ —whose current role mirrors the duties of Zobrist.
"I’m using him that way, even defensively," manager Joe Maddon said. "He’s his Mini-Me right now. It opens up a lot daily regarding giving guys days off, where do you want to play him, and batting order construction.
"They’re very versatile players. I think Happ has more power than Zo, but they’re similar kind of players."
The switch-hitting Happ continued his recent improvement Saturday when he had an opposite-field RBI single in the first inning, executed a sacrifice bunt during a two-run fourth and singled to set up Javier Baez’s two-run, tie-breaking double in the sixth.
Happ is batting .555 (10-for-18) during a five-game hitting streak that has raised his average from .215 to .264. Happ has five home runs in his last 11 games.
"He’s re-adjusting back," said Maddon, who said Friday that Happ "pound for pound, he has as (much) power as I’ve seen."
Happ’s production is essential with Zobrist remaining in Chicago to continue rehab on his left wrist with no target date to start a minor-league rehab assignment.
"As (Happ) continues to adjust to major-league pitching, he and Zobrist back at the same time would be nice," Maddon said.
Rizzo back to top: First baseman Anthony Rizzo will return to the leadoff spot Sunday after not starting for only the second time this season.
"It’s a long year," Rizzo said before pinch-hitting in the ninth and lining to shortstop. "You have to be smart with your days and knowing if you take a day off now, it can help in the future."
Extra innings: Jon Lester now has beaten every major-league team except the Red Sox. He never has faced the team with which he played in his first nine seasons. … Kyle Schwarber is scheduled to play his first game for Triple-A Iowa on Monday night, the Cubs confirmed. … Left-hander Brett Anderson (lower back strain) will start his minor-league rehab assignment Sunday for Double-A Tennessee.