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Levine: Contreras, Rizzo Spark Cubs As They Climb Over .500 Mark

By Sports – CBS Chicago

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Getting back over .500 has been a mantra for the Cubs in this up-and-down season, as they’ve had an even record on 14 different occasions. On Monday, Chicago climbed back over that mark with a 3-2 win against San Diego at Wrigley Field that upped its mark to 35-34.

How consistently mediocre have the Cubs been? They haven’t been more than four games above .500 or two games below at any point this season.

Now the question is whether the Cubs could catch fire or string prolonged consistent play together.

In a rally Monday, the hots bats of Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras ignited the recently resurgent Cubs offense. Rizzo drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly RBI off of former teammate Clayton Richard in the third inning. With Chicago trailing 2-1 in the seventh, Contreras tied it with a lead-off homer off a Richard offering.

His blast came on the one-year anniversary of homering in his first big league at-bat.

“The sky is the limit for this guy,” Cubs left-hander Jon Lester said of Contreras. “His growth from being thrown into the fire with the best team in baseball to now being the starting catcher for the defending world champions, that is a lot of responsibility. He has done an unbelievable job. I hope he continues to grow. He has all the talent in the world.”

Later in the seventh inning, the Cubs plated the go-ahead run later in the frame on an Albert Almora RBI double.

In his sixth game batting lead-off for the Cubs, Rizzo continues to be an energizer. He had a bunt single to lead off the game, the sac fly and then a triple in the sixth inning, when he found himself amid some drama following a hard slide into Padres catcher Austin Hedges while being thrown out on a double play that kept San Diego’s lead at 2-1. Padres manager Andy Green called it a “cheap shot” while Rizzo defended it as a “hard” play.

Rizzo now has been on base in all six games leading off for the Cubs.

“He has set the tone for our entire team,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I give him credit — he has done all of that for us.”

Lester took a no-decision after going six innings and allowing two runs, on solo shots to Jose Pirela to lead off the game and Yangervis Solarte in the third inning. He struck out seven while walking one and allowing five hits.

The Cubs sit in second place in the NL Central, now trailing the division-leading Brewers by 1.5 games. Chicago has won seven games after trailing in the seventh inning or later this season, tied for the most such wins in baseball.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.