Anthony Rizzo put together good at-bat after good at-bat for each postseason game. He was a very productive hitter all season, delivering 32 home runs despite missing time on multiple occasions. Throughout the regular season, you saw him sell out for pulling the ball more than he has at any point in his long career. It didn’t result in a drastic increase in strikeouts, but it was nearly the highest rate of his career.
Nonetheless, in the postseason against the best pitching in the league, it became clear that the 2016 World Series champion has another gear. Rizzo still struck out at a normal-ish clip, but he had multiple at-bats that he grinded out. He fought off tough pitches with foul balls or quality takes and waited until he got something he could put in play with authority. It didn’t always result in a hit, but he had a chunk that did. You can think back to his at-bat earlier in the series where he wore Rafael Montero out until he got a juicy pitch which he took out to right center, or you can think of tonight where he came through in the clutch a few times.
As fans who followed the postseason action know, Aaron Judge hasn’t fully been himself these playoffs. Yeah, he’s had hard outs that didn’t fall his way, but he has chased a ton and taken some ugly swings. Still, having Rizzo behind him has kept the pressure on Astros pitchers to not only execute against Judge, but also be precise against Rizzo and his gritty at-bats. No specific pitch was getting Rizzo out from any pitcher, making him the toughest out in the series and the most productive with runners in scoring position.
In Rizzo’s first at-bat, he battled and battled to get an RBI. With the shift on, he shot a low liner to third base past Alex Bregman and gave the Yankees some much-needed life after an at-bat from Judge that resulted in a walk and passing of the baton.
Like I said earlier, Rizzo forced pitchers to continue to execute pitches after toiling through at-bats with Judge. Even though Rizzo didn’t really smash this ball, it still found its way into the outfield. Making two-strike mistakes hurt goes a long way, as we all experienced the negative side for this series.
In his next opportunity, Rizzo came up after Judge hit a missile for an out to center field. The Yankees seemed like they were finally getting to Lance McCullers Jr., but the wind knocked Judge’s laser down and into the glove of Chas McCormick. After that, it was crucial the Yankees get something out of the inning, and luckily, Rizzo was on the same page.
The first baseman was aggressive in lining a single up the middle to tie the game after a struggle of an inning where they gave up their secure 3-0 lead.
Rizzo hit this one over 100 mph and was very deserving after such a sound approach all night. To cap off his superb night, he also helped turned an excellent defensive play in the ninth inning to keep the margin at just one run and nab Jose Altuve at third base.
I acknowledge that plenty of you are probably thinking, “Why in the world would Esteban write article given what happened tonight?” Well, I thought that Rizzo was deserving of some praise for his performance, even if the non-Harrison Bader members of the lineup went into a funk. It’s also possible that, while Judge will justifiably get more attention, this may have also been Rizzo’s last game with the Yankees after a season and a half in New York. He can either take the $16 million player option for 2023 or test free agency again. Collectively, the offense was awful in these playoffs, but Rizzo was actually quite good. If only his teammates had taken a page out of his book.