Cubs

Joe Maddon expects Kris Bryant to be fine following scary outfield collision

Joe Maddon expects Kris Bryant to be fine following scary outfield collision

Exhale, Cubs Nation. Kris Bryant is going to be OK.

There was plenty of reason to worry when the National League’s home run leader collided with center fielder Albert Almora Jr. in left-center field during the fifth inning of Monday’s 10-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Bryant got up from that collision and remained in the game only briefly before exiting for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning, the Cubs announcing he had a “contusion on the lower portion of his left leg.”

It looked like a replay of the collision in early April in Arizona, when Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler ran into each other in left-center, leading to Schwarber getting carted off the field with a season-ending injury.

Bryant didn’t suffer the same fate, with manager Joe Maddon saying Bryant should be fine come Tuesday.

“He should be fine tomorrow,” Maddon said. “I’m anticipating putting his name in the lineup tomorrow.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon added that had the score been less one-sided, Bryant wouldn’t have exited Monday's game at all.

Bryant wasn’t around after the win to discuss the collision, but Almora faced the cameras, seeming both shaken and relieved at what happened to a guy he called his brother.

“We’re both trying to catch that ball,” Almora said. “As a center fielder, I feel like if it drops it’s on me. It’s a baseball play, it really is. We’re both trying to win. He was obviously right there under it, and I didn’t hear him. I should’ve probably looked. In that situation, we were winning the game, and that drop in could change the momentum and I just didn’t want it to happen.

“It was really unfortunate. Obviously I didn’t want to hurt my brother. He’s going to be one of my witnesses at my wedding in a couple weeks. I came in after the game, and I tried to find him. He’s doing all right. I gave like 15,000 hugs I think, and I apologized every time. He’s good, thank god.”

[MORE CUBS: No return date for Dexter Fowler, but Cubs can't wait to get him back]

Bryant added to his terrific first half of the season before he left Monday, clubbing his 24th home run of the year, a two-run shot, and scoring all three times he reached base. Had the Cubs lost him for any significant amount of time, it would’ve been a big problem, their hottest hitter joining Fowler on the disabled list.

Fortunately that didn’t happen, and Bryant should be ready to go not just for next week’s All-Star Game — in which he’s expected to be voted in as the National League’s starting third baseman — but for the remainder of this week’s games, as well.

But trust the look on Maddon’s face when the skipper said he doesn’t want anything like that to happen again in 2016.

“He did call it — inaudibly,” Maddon said of Bryant. “They couldn’t hear each other in the white noise of Wrigley Field.

“Albert’s just an aggressive center fielder, that’s why he’s so darn good. That’s just something to be talked about. You can’t just go out there and keep hitting fly balls. They know, they’ve got it. We just have to be more loud when you make that call.

“Sometimes they yell at the same time, and that’s the scariest part. Sometimes you’ve got to peek. And you have to have a lot of confidence in your abilities, but there should be a little bit of a peek involved, especially when you’re going like that. Center fielder always has the priority, don’t get me wrong, but when it’s that high and somebody’s camped (out under the ball), that’s another situation.

"It happens to every team throughout the course of the season, but for purposes I would like it not to happen again.”

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

 

Sosa went down and golfed a pitch out for his 36th homer on July 17, 1998. He smacked Marlins reliever Kirt Ojala's (who??) pitch just over the wall in center field at Pro Player Stadium for a 2-run shot that closed out the Cubs' scoring in a 6-1 victory.

 

The blast accounted for Sosa's 88th and 89th of the season. By comparison, Javy Baez currently leads the Cubs (and the National League) with 72 RBI on July 17, 2018.

 

Steve Trachsel tossed a complete game for the Cubs in the victory that day and Sosa finished with the only extra-base hits for either team (he also had a double).

 

Fun fact: Former Cub Ryan Dempster started the game for the Marlins, but lasted just 4.1 innings to run his season record to 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA.