Kris Bryant’s attitude with Cubs at low point: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

Kris Bryant’s attitude with Cubs at low point: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

WASHINGTON – Kris Bryant called it the “lowest point” of his charmed career as a Cub after a 9-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field dropped the defending champs to 30-31 on June 10. 

Since then, Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) experienced a setback that will likely delay his return to the rotation until after the All-Star break. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (left wrist inflammation) and Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (left hand abrasion) went on the disabled list.

All-Star shortstop Addison Russell had to answer questions about divorce proceedings and a Major League Baseball investigation. Playoff legend Kyle Schwarber got demoted to Triple-A Iowa. Veteran catcher Miguel Montero torched Jake Arrieta in an epic postgame rant and got designated for assignment. The Cubs won nine of their next 17 games.       

Almost forgot: Bryant heard his right ankle pop on Wednesday night at Nationals Park when he awkwardly landed on third base while catching a pop-up. The reigning National League MVP walked through the visiting clubhouse on Thursday afternoon carrying a book recommended by mental skills program coordinator Darnell McDonald: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F---.”

“I don’t know if it’s any different,” said Bryant, who felt “relieved” and “a ton better,” doubting that the sprain would force him onto the disabled list. “It’s still kind of just – you win a game, you lose a game, you win a game. It’s OK, you’re keeping your head above water, but it’s just different than what I’ve experienced.

“There’s going to be times like that. But I just think it’s important that we learn from all the things that we’re going through now, so that it makes us better in the future. I definitely do think that this point – and being as low as we are right now – is still going to make us better.”

Where Anthony Rizzo had been part of Cubs teams that lost 286 games between 2012 and 2014, Bryant helped the franchise win 97 games and two playoff rounds during his Rookie of the Year campaign – and then deliver its first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. 

What the Cubs need now are the qualities that separate Bryant beyond just his sweet swing and athleticism – mental toughness, emotional intelligence and the ability to process failure.

This is someone who – as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft – went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his Class-A Boise debut in the summer of 2013. And whiffed three times and went 0-for-4 when he made it to The Show in April 2015. Bryant joked about Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Cody Bellinger.

“He’s starting off way too hot,” Bryant said. “I didn’t hit a home run for my first 20 games or something. But that stuff does go a long way and help you (when you realize): I’ve been through this before. I’ve hit under .200 for a month. You just fall back on those things. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st 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's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound


Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.