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.”