While the NL MVP has been linked to superstar Bryce Harper for months, the Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is making it clear his name belongs in the conversation.
Cubs' starting pitcher Jake Arrieta isn't the most familiar name in baseball but he's also showing he should be considered for the league's Cy Young.
Rizzo looks to continue his torrid stretch and Arrieta tries to extend his scoreless streak as the Cubs go for a ninth straight win Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
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After completing a 7-0 homestand, the Cubs (66-48) pushed their winning streak to eight with Friday's 6-5 victory for their 14th win in 15 games. This is the first time the team has won eight in a row since a nine-game run May 26-June 3, 2008, and it's best stretch since going 15-1 from May 19-June 7, 2001.
''I think right now, we feel like we're gonna win every game,'' Chris Coghlan said. ''I think that's the reason why we're winning a lot of them. You can say, 'I hope we win a game.' But to actually believe it and be (convinced) in it is totally different than just saying, 'I hope we go win today.'''
Coghlan hit a three-run homer in the top of the third and then tied the score with a solo shot in the fifth. Rizzo followed with his 23rd homer to give the Cubs 10 home runs in their last three games.
"They're playing great baseball right now," Friday's loser Jeff Samardzija said. "They play every out and they don't make any mistakes."
Rizzo has been the driving force behind the team's surge, batting .412 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.394 OPS in the last 15 games. He is also 15 for 30 with five homers and four doubles during a 7-1 stretch on the road.
One of the biggest improvements in his game is his ability to hit left-handed pitching.
After batting .226 against southpaws in his first four seasons, he is hitting .343 against lefties this year - the majors' second-best mark by a left-handed batter.
He was 1 for 3 against the left-handed Jose Quintana (6-9, 3.59 ERA) last month while Dexter Fowler went 3 for 4. Fowler is 5 for 11 in his last three games.
Quintana pitched well against the Cubs on July 12, permitting three runs while striking out nine over 7 1-3 innings, but was outdueled by Arrieta in the Cubs' 3-1 win. Arrieta struck out nine in a two-hitter and carries a 17 2-3 scoreless innings streak into this one.
Arrieta (13-6, 2.38) has the majors' third-best ERA since June 21 at 1.23, yielding two runs or fewer in nine of 10 starts. He also has baseball's best road ERA since June 4 at 1.29, going 6-0 in eight starts.
On the season, he is limiting left-handed hitters to a .178 average - the third-lowest among right-handed starting pitchers. Given his dominance of left-handers plus Adam LaRoche being 1 for 13 in their matchups and mired in an 0-for-13 slump, the White Sox first baseman/designated hitter could get the day off.
The left-handed-hitting Adam Eaton, who homered Friday, was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Arrieta last month.
The White Sox (54-59) lost their fifth straight home game to an NL team and Quintana has been plagued by some terrible luck at U.S. Cellular Field, recording one win in 10 starts despite a 3.58 ERA. His 2.34 run-support average at home is the third-lowest in the majors.
He gave up four runs and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings in Sunday's 5-4 loss at Kansas City after going 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his previous three starts.