Welcome back, Kris Bryant.
Bryant, activated off the 10-day injured list Tuesday, returned to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 17. The Cubs third baseman went 2-for-6, making his presence felt while showing positive signs offensively.
The Cubs were 14-7 the last time Bryant played, going 6-7 in his absence. They scored early and often before losing a 6-1 lead (6-5 in the eighth inning) following a lengthy rain delay. After newcomer Josh Osich worked out of an inherited jam in the ninth, the two sides exchanged 10th-inning runs before Ian Happ's leadoff single in the 11th put the Cubs up 8-7, the game's final score.
Some quick takes from the win:
Warm it up, Kris.
Bryant hit in the No. 2 spot rather than his customary 2020 leadoff position, behind Happ (more on that shortly). On an 0-1 pitch in the first, he smashed a line drive to deep right-center field.
Although Pirates center fielder Cole Tucker tracked it down, it was a good sign for Bryant, who didn't look like himself leading up to his IL stint. The lineout registered a 100.9 exit velocity and had an xBA of .750.
Bryant hit a hard groundout in his second at-bat before finding a hole on a single through the left side in the fifth. He then flashed his importance to the lineup and ability to impact a game in many ways. Javy Báez smashed a double into the left field corner, and Bryant, one of the Cubs’ best baserunners, scored from first.
Bryant added a single off pitcher Richard Rodríguez in the ninth.
"[His approach] looked really clean, staying up the middle," Cubs manager David Ross said postgame. "That wrist can really be an issue, and the swings looked back to what we’re used to from him, using the big part of the field."
Rewarding the faith
Ross acknowledged it’s a fluid situation, but Ian Happ — their best hitter this season — will hit leadoff for the foreseeable future.
“The way he’s attacked the baseball and the quality of the at-bat continues to stand out to me,” Ross said pregame. “It’s always been in the back of my mind whenever he started getting back to who we thought he was and who he thought he was."
Happ, who hit two homers in a historic showing by Cubs outfielders on Sunday, picked up where he left off on Tuesday, hitting another historic home run, this of the leadoff variety. He went 3-for-6 on the night.
Jon Lester was putting together a solid outing, taking a 6-1 lead into the sixth inning, before it turned sour thereafter. It was then that Pittsburgh broke through against the veteran lefty, with five straight men reaching base on four hits and a walk. Three of those hits were for RBIs.
Lester exited in the sixth with runners on second and third and one out, replaced by Colin Rea, whom Happ bailed out with a diving catch in center field. A run scored but that was all Rea allowed.
In 5 1/3 innings, Lester allowed eight hits and was charged for five runs (all earned), walking and striking out three apiece. He allowed baserunners in the first four innings but limited the damage before his final frame.
"Kind of a grind from Pitch 1," Lester said postgame. "From there on, just trying to grind and do the best I can to somehow minimize damage."
Business of baseball
“It sucks. It’s not fun. They’re good guys and it’s part of this business. They understand it, but it’s the worst part of this job.” –David Ross on Cubs’ recent roster cuts to make room for trade deadline acquisitions.
Josh Phegley, Ian Miller, Hernán Pérez and Casey Sadler were DFA-ed, and Albert Almora Jr. was optioned to the South Bend alternate site in recent days.
The Cubs and Pirates play the second game of a three-game set on Wednesday. Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 4.09 ERA) and former Cub Derek Holland (1-2, 7.62 ERA) are the probable starters. First pitch is at 6:05 p.m. CT.