CINCINNATI -- In the top of the eighth inning Monday night, a sea of Cubs fans erupted at Great American Ball Park as third baseman Kris Bryant trotted around the bases.As he entered the dugout, they only got louder -- beckoning Bryant for a curtain call. Bryant, reluctant, hid in
CINCINNATI -- In the top of the eighth inning Monday night, a sea of Cubs fans erupted at Great American Ball Park as third baseman Kris Bryant trotted around the bases.
As he entered the dugout, they only got louder -- beckoning Bryant for a curtain call. Bryant, reluctant, hid in the dugout. Even after outfielder Jason Heyward pulled him to the dugout railing, Bryant avoided his curtain call and was quickly saved by an Anthony Rizzo home run.
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But Bryant deserved it. That home run was his third of the game, capping a historic 5-for-5 night in an 11-8 Cubs win over the Reds. In Bryant's first career five-hit game, and his first three-homer game, he became the first player in modern Major League history, dating back to 1913, to hit three homers and two doubles in one game.
"Guys were pushing me out, but I've never been the type to show up an opponent or anybody. I don't think that's ever happened in baseball and I definitely didn't want to be the first," Bryant said of a curtain call at a road park. "I'm just not that type of player. I'm glad my teammates are having fun with it. I'm glad there are a lot of Cubs fans here, but I'm not that guy."
Bryant also set a Cubs franchise record with 16 total bases, making him the 19th player since 1913 with 16 or more total bases in a game. He also became the second player in Cubs franchise history with five extra-base hits in a game, the only other one being George Gore on July 9, 1885 (three doubles, two triples).
"The best game of my whole life, obviously," Bryant said. "To hear that, there's so many good players in this game, it's just, I feel so fortunate, so thankful for this opportunity to play on a stage like this every day, and I give it my all and I make the most of every opportunity I get. To hear that, it keeps you coming back."
"I tried to get in on him the first at-bat [a double in the first inning], and then the second at-bat I tried to throw a fastball down and away, and it ended up middle about belt high. He hit it out," said Reds starter Dan Straily. "The next one I tried to throw a slider down and away and tossed it middle high again. He did what good hitters do with those pitches. They do damage with them."
The game came on the backside of what's been a pretty difficult June for Bryant. Over his previous 13 games, Bryant was hitting .167 and felt like he wasn't having good at-bats and wasn't squaring the ball up.
On Monday, he squared up every ball he saw. His first homer was a solo shot in the third that came off the bat at 105.1 mph and traveled 410 feet, according to Statcast™. His next at-bat, just one inning later, Bryant belted a mammoth 444-foot, 107.1-mph home run into the left-field deck. He followed it up with a 105.1-mph, 403-footer in the eighth. The three home runs combined for 1,257 feet, nearly a quarter of a mile.
"I haven't really felt 100 percent in terms of my at-bats," Bryant said. "Just kind of grinding them out. But, I don't know what happened tonight. It was just, I figured the last couple weeks haven't been what I wanted, so I figured, you know what, I'm due. Throughout my whole life, I've always been that way, whereas when I'm struggling, I just tell myself I'm ready for a big game, and I guess tonight was the night."
Bryant was able to succeed by being aggressive against the Reds. His first four hits came on the first or second pitch of the at-bat. Through his first four at-bats, he saw six strikes and hit four of them.
"That's just always been my approach up there, to hit the first pitch I get," Bryant said. "From the very first pitch of the game, it was a hanging slider, I missed it, but I'm always ready up there and I take pride in that."
When the Cubs drafted Bryant second overall in the 2013 Draft, this was the kind of player they thought he could become. When Monday's starter Jake Arrieta saw Bryant for the first time, he knew he could be something special.
"I told a lot of people coming into Spring Training last season, I got asked a lot of questions about him. 'So what do you got on Bryant?' or 'What kind of hitter's he going to be?' Most of the people that asked me, I told them he's going to be a top five hitter in the league as soon as he gets into the big leagues," Arrieta said. "Not to put any pressure on him, but that's the guy he is, and I saw it from day one."
Beyond his career night at the plate, Bryant also played three different defensive positions, which manager Joe Maddon said took his night "over the top."
In general, Maddon feels like last year's National League Rookie of the Year is budding into a future NL MVP Award winner.
"He's got that within his abilities," Maddon said. "He's learning how to play the game. He's instinctively a good baseball player. Learning how to approach his at-bats, how to make adjustments. His defense at third base has gotten better. He's one of the best baserunners in baseball. He's all of that. And that kind of upper-tank power."
Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.