Rick Renteria and his Cubs players say they win and lose as a team. But individual distinction is a possibility for Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro when it comes to being selected for the National League All-Star team.
Rizzo entered Saturday night's game against the Pirates hitting .279 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs. He sported an on-base percentage of .402 and a slugging percentage of .498.
His patience at the plate seems to be paying off. Rizzo entered Saturday night's game with 48 walks, second in the NL to Andrew McCutcheon's 51. Last season Rizzo walked once every 9.1 plate appearances; this year it's once per 6.4 appearances.
"If you keep grinding at-bats, pitchers get more stressful, and the more stressful they are, the more they are going to hang pitches," Rizzo said of his more deliberate approach. "That's what we have to keep doing."
Rizzo's numbers are just off the pace of the Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt (.312, 15, 52, .381 and .559), but better overall than the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez (.253, 12, 43. .326 and .454) among NL first basemen.
The latest All-Star voting results have Goldschmidt comfortably leading with 1,291,052 votes, followed by Gonzalez (1,049,222) and Freddie Freeman of the Braves (920,361).
Rizzo entered Saturday night with a 2.1 WAR (wins above replacement), which is second-highest among NL first basemen, trailing only Goldschmidt (3.3).
Both Rizzo and Castro appear more relaxed at the plate after enduring down seasons in 2013.
"This is the nicest I've felt about this team since I've been here," Rizzo said. "Everyone is just starting to expect to win games now. We always do, but it is just coming to that, I guess, swagger.
"We've been in almost every game. The ones we're not winning, we're right there. And of late we've been winning those games. That's the big difference now. But I think we have the pitching to do it. We just have to keep our heads down."
Castro came in with a .290 batting average Saturday with 83 hits to rank second among all NL shortstops, trailing only Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies (.363 and 87). Castro was tied with Tulowitzki for the most extra-base hits with 34.
Moved to the cleanup spot on April 25, Castro hit his 11th homer Friday, already surpassing his season total of 10 in 2013.
Renteria says he pays little attention to media coverage of his team, but he is aware that last year Castro was criticized, excessively in his opinion.
"If it starts raining, it's his fault. If there is an automobile accident, it's his fault," Renteria said. "That's kind of unfair. He does thrive on positive reinforcement. I think most people do.
"He has had a lot of people come through his life here and because of that he is doing well. Not in spite of it, but because of it. He has experienced a lot of different ways of being dealt with. Believe me, he takes the good of everybody and tried to apply it."
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