MILWAUKEE — Kris Bryant insisted the home-run drought didn’t weigh on him, but his actions spoke louder than his words.
That streak finally ended Saturday night at Miller Park, with Bryant going deep against Kyle Lohse during a 12-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cubs pretending to freeze him out in the dugout.
But Bryant didn’t sulk or zone out or let his first 91 plate appearances in the majors negatively impact the rest of his game. His numbers before his first career home run: .422 on-base percentage; 4.37 pitches per plate appearance; 29 strikeouts in 73 at-bats; 17 walks, 14 RBI and 12 runs scored in 20 games.
That focus and maturity helps to explain why the Cubs drafted Bryant No. 2 overall in 2013, believing he would be able to handle all the big-market pressures, face-of-the-franchise responsibilities and off-the-field distractions.
“I can go the rest of the year without hitting a home run,” Bryant said. “As long as I’m doing that — running hard and driving in runs and helping the team win — that’s all I can control. And I’ll continue to do that.”
Bryant’s “Respect 90” hustle late Friday night still had manager Joe Maddon buzzing the day after the 6-foot-5 slugger ran hard on a groundball to shortstop with two outs in the ninth inning. A replay review rewarded Bryant with an infield single, giving the Cubs an insurance run they wound up needing in a 7-6 win over the Brewers.
“That speaks volumes for the whole organization,” Maddon said. “Believe me, when it happened, I know (closer Hector Rondon is) coming in with a four-run lead, but I’m thinking to myself: Is that going to be the difference in the game tonight? Before the inning ever began. And it was.
“The other part that nobody even talked about — check out the replay where he hit the bag with his foot. If he doesn’t hit the front of the bag, he would have been out.
“Now, this is stuff you talk about the very first day when you run the bases. Get in there, run down the line, run through the bag, hit the front part of the bag, look over your right shoulder.
“You say that…I don’t know…at least a hundred times. At least. But do they all do it? No, because, eh, it’s not that big of a deal.
“I promise you: Run back the video on Derek Jeter running to first base…you see where his foot hits the bag almost 100 percent of the time. And that’s what KB did.”
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The best teams have its best players setting the example every day.
The Cubs have talked a lot about becoming a world-class organization while being a fifth-place team. For all the hype surrounding his arrival, Bryant is pretty quiet, relatively humble and very serious about his craft.
Bryant always said he wanted to let his game do the talking for him.
“There’s no greater banner or plug for the ‘Respect 90’ part of what we’re trying to get done here than what he just did right there,” Maddon said. “If all of our minor-leaguers watch that and (come) away with that takeaway, I will absolutely accept that. It was phenomenal.”