After pounding the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 Sunday, the Chicago Cubs have now scored 38 runs in their last four games.

So, naturally, there’s offensive optimism aplenty for Chicago. Lob a dart at the lineup card and, chances are, you’ll hit a guy swinging at least a moderately hot stick.

One Chicago hitter, though, is making a particularly compelling case at the plate: First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who clubbed a pair of home runs in Sunday’s rout and appears primed for a career power binge.

Here is one of his most recent bombs, courtesy of MLB‘s official Twitter feed:

Rizzo has smacked five home runs in his last five games, and it could easily have been six, as USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale pointed out:

Entering play Monday, Rizzo has eight dingers on the season. That matches his career high for a single month, set in July 2014. With five games left on the April slate—against the basement-dwelling Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, no less—Rizzo seems destined to set a new personal fence-clearing best.

If he maintains this pace, or anything close to it, Rizzo could vault past his single-season career high of 32 home runs, also set in 2014.

That would help ease, if not erase, the loss of sophomore slugger Kyle Schwarber to a season-ending knee injury. And it would officially establish Rizzo as one of the game’s premier offensive forces.

Good as he’s been since arriving full time in the big leagues in 2013, it’s easy to lose sight of Rizzo among the Cubs’ constellation of stars. Kris Bryant, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, has that new-player smell. Jason Heyward is the big-money free agent with the bag full of tools.

Rizzo, though, is quietly compiling a sterling resume. He’s made the All-Star team and finished among the top 10 in NL MVP voting each of the last two seasons. His 11.2 wins above replacement (WAR) during that same span ranks eighth-best among all MLB position players, per FanGraphs.

In March, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein labeled Rizzo a “sneaky MVP candidate,” per Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post.

With the way Rizzo’s been going, you can safely eliminate the “sneaky” part.

Rizzo, as Svrluga points out, has already beaten cancerHodgkin’s lymphoma, to be precise. And he survived a rough debut with the San Diego Padres in 2011, when he hit .141 in 49 games, to become a force on the North Side.

Rizzo now has more home runs in a Cubs uniform than all but four left-handed hitters, per’s Carrie Muskat and Mark Sheldon.

The 26-year-old Rizzo occupies a leadership role in the clubhouse, as veteran catcher David Ross explained, per Svrluga:

The makeup of this team revolves around him. He can relate to meprobably one of my best friends on the team. But he’s also attached to those young guys. He’s been a Cub for a long time, and you look at him and the example he sets and the way he acts around them every day. He’s the young veteran.

Intangibles are well and good, and even with skipper Joe Maddon on the top step and playoff-tested arms Jon Lester and John Lackey in the rotation, these green Cubbies can use more leaders.

Launching the ball over the fence, however, is its own kind of valuable. If Rizzo can surpass the 40-homer plateau this seasona goal that becomes more attainable with each blastit shifts an already dangerous Chicago attack into an even higher gear.

There’s credit to go around on this hyped Cubs team as they charge toward their curse-busting goal. Scoring 38 runs in four days will do that for you.

Just make sure you save a heaping portion for Anthony Rizzo. Swinging for the fences, after all, can make a guy extra hungry.


All statistics current as of April 24 and courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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