CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo returned to the Cubs' lineup on Tuesday with every intention of turning up his offensive production after a dismal start to the month of August.
The first baseman was held out Monday with illness -- he said he had a "terrible fever" and migraine headaches -- but was back to his regular No. 3 spot in the order for the second game of the series, facing Nats righty Dan Haren.
Rizzo has already set career highs in home runs (18) and RBIs (65) by virtue of the fact that he's played more games this season (122) than nearly his previous two combined (136).
But his production has tailed off since a powerful start (eight homers and 20 RBIs in April) and a good May (.295 average, two homers, 16 RBIs). Entering Tuesday, he was batting .150 in 16 August games with just five RBIs.
"It's just baseball," Rizzo said. "You feel good one day, you feel bad the next. It's just trying to find that even keel and stay consistent. It hasn't been the most consistent for me this year, but it is what it is. You've just got to keep going. It's not like I'm going to back down and not want to play anymore. You've just got to keep going and keep having fun with the game."
Manager Dale Sveum said it was fair to say Rizzo's season has been more of a "road bump" than a "setback" and that it's something plenty of young players experience over the course of their early career.
"They're all going to look back and want to throw one year out of their career and, unfortunately, it'll probably be this one [for Rizzo]," Sveum said. "These guys, they're young, and it's their second time around in the big leagues, their second year sometimes and it just takes some adjustments and some confidence, too. Confidence is obviously the key factor. The confidence is always going to show up on the field."
But when asked about pitchers making adjustments to pitch him inside, or having trouble with fastballs, Rizzo's response hardly lacked machismo.
"They're throwing balls down the middle, too," Rizzo said. "I'm just not hitting them the way I'm supposed to. It doesn't matter what the pitchers do; I'll never give them the credit that some of them deserve, because I know I can hit any pitch at any given time."
Castro slides down to eighth in Cubs' order
CHICAGO -- In a season full of lineup switches and swaps, Starlin Castro found himself in yet another unfamiliar spot on Tuesday night.
The Cubs shortstop, who hit primarily second or third over the course of his two All-Star campaigns in 2011 and 2012, was slotted into the No. 8 spot against the Nationals and right-hander Dan Haren on Tuesday.
It was the seventh different place in the order this season; he's never batted fourth or ninth, and has spent the most time in the No. 2 spot (79 games). But manager Dale Sveum said it was more a product of where the other eight batters fit, rather than where Castro deserves to be.
"It's just gotten to the point where [Donnie Murphy's] obviously doing his thing, [Darwin Barney], I really like the way he's been handling the bat and doing things and put him in the two-hole. Right now, obviously, things aren't going really well [for Castro] swinging the bat.
"[Welington Castillo's] been having great at-bats. Obviously getting [Brian Bogusevic's] left-handed bat in there, you don't want to put that in the eight-hole. So it's just one of those things right now, where it's just the only fit."
Castro is a career .285 hitter who's batted just .242 this year in his least productive season since he debuted in 2010. In each of his previous three seasons, he hit at least .283.
Schierholtz hopeful Cubs are long-term fit
CHICAGO -- With the departure of plenty of notable names -- most recently David DeJesus -- fellow outfielder Nate Schierholtz said on Monday that he'd like to be a part of the Cubs' future. If he can continue to produce consistently, the feeling would most surely be mutual.
The right fielder has been a consistent contributor, after serving mostly in a utility/reserve role in San Francisco and Philadelphia for the first six years of his career, and he's taken his numbers to new heights. With 105 games under his belt -- he still gets the bulk of his at-bats against right-handers -- Schierholtz has 18 homers (his previous career-high was 9), 96 hits (previous high was 93) and 58 RBIs (previous high was 41). His .277 average is six points above his career mark.
"That was the way I got out of San Francisco," Schierholtz said. "I had the confidence that if I went somewhere with a shot to play at least almost every day, I'd be able to put up better numbers than I had. That's my goal, just to prove I can play every day."
Schierholtz went deep twice in the Cubs' 11-1 rout of the Nationals on Monday, driving in a career-high six runs.
The Cubs' outfield prospect pipeline is well-stocked -- two of their top three prospects, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, are outfielders -- but they're short on veterans since DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano were traded away this summer. With guys like Brian Bogusevic and Ryan Sweeney expected to get looks, Schierholtz could be a presence the Cubs could count on possibly beyond this season.
"I'd like to be a part of the future here," Schierholtz said of the passing of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. "And I'm happy I'm not out of here."