Kris Bryant playing catch-up as Cubs face World Series elimination

Kris Bryant playing catch-up as Cubs face World Series elimination

Kris Bryant playing catch-up as Cubs face World Series elimination

Kris Bryant has just a lone single in four World Series games, making this his most futile stretch in terms of collecting hits since June 12-15. 

That was the last time Bryant, who turned in a regular season that makes him a strong candidate for National League MVP, had just one hit in a four-game stretch. He’s worked three walks, too, in his 17 World Series plate appearances, but his spate of ineffectiveness has coincided with the Cubs sliding to a 3-1 deficit at the hands of the Cleveland Indians. 

Bryant is hardly alone in scuffling at the plate against Cleveland’s maniacally excellent pitching staff, but his lack of production from the No. 2 spot has been magnified with the Cubs managing no runs in Games 1 and 3 and just two in Game 4. 

Bryant said he doesn’t feel like the Indians are working him differently than other pitchers did previously, but allowed that his adjustment to facing a team for the first time this season — especially one with Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen — has been difficult. 

“I feel like any time you see an American League team, it’s going to take a while to adjust to them and establish that history,” Bryant said. “But I don’t know, they got some really good pitchers over there, some tough at-bats for us. But seeing their bullpen and getting used to it, hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”

Bryant also made a pair of uncharacteristic errors in Game 4, with his throwing error after making a spectacular spinning play on a Lonnie Chisenhall smash to his left setting up Kluber’s infield single, on which he also committed an error trying to force a late throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo.  

“It's just a play maybe to take a little more time with,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant’s first error. “The other ball should not have been thrown at all, that's all. The slow roller, probably processed the pitcher's running, so he said give it a go. That's what I saw of the whole thing.

“But the first play, I think he had a shot had he slowed it down just a little bit, and found the first baseman. But he's made so many good plays all year. That just happened tonight but that's what I saw.”

A week ago, as the Cubs partied at Wrigley Field following their National League Championship Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein reflected on his feelings after his team fell behind 2-1 in that series: “If we’re going to go down, let’s go down as us,” Epstein said. 

And the Cubs going down in the World Series with Bryant struggling at the plate and in the field certainly wouldn’t be “them.”

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper


With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, we get to know Kelly Crull. Kelly tells Luke Stuckmeyer about her love of bowling growing up, why she became a reporter and some of her favorite moments covering the Cubs.

01:00 Kelly's love of tennis at an early age

04:00 Following basketball while growing up in Indiana

06:00 Possible tennis showdown between Kelly and Megan Mawicke

09:30 Kelly talks about working in London & interviewing J.K. Rowling

14:00 When did she decide to become a reporter?

15:00 What is her favorite food?

16:00 Kelly's go-to karaoke song

18:00 Kelly's favorite NBA story (it involves Kevin Durant)

21:00 Favorite moments covering the Cubs

24:00 Dealing with the weather at Wrigley Field

28:00 Something we don't know about Kelly

31:00 What does Kelly enjoy watching at home the most?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast