3 homers, 3 innings: Historic night for Kris Bryant
WASHINGTON -- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant hit three home runs in a game for the second time in his career, completing the feat with a two-run shot in the ninth inning on Friday night in Chicago's 14-6 victory at Nationals Park.
Bryant homered in three consecutive innings, also hitting a two-run shot in the seventh and a solo blast in the eighth. He's the 12th player, according to STATS, to homer in three consecutive innings, but only the second to do it in the seventh, eighth and ninth. The other was J.D. Martinez, when he hit four home runs for the D-backs on Sept. 4, 2017.
"I'm seeing it good, and being on time I think is the biggest thing," Bryant said. "I think early on in the season my timing was off. Now I feel like I'm right where I need to be. So, that's a good thing, walking up to the plate and knowing that your timing is there and all you have to do is see the ball and hit it."
Bryant singled in his first at-bat off Nationals ace Max Scherzer to extend his career-best on-base streak to 26 games, but his home runs off three relievers allowed the Cubs to break the game wide open.
Bryant first connected off Justin Miller for a two-run shot in the seventh that gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead. After the Nationals scored twice in the bottom of the frame, Bryant extended Chicago's lead to four with a solo blast off Kyle Barraclough in the eighth. Bryant's second homer of the night came one batter after Kyle Schwarber capped off a 13-pitch at-bat with a two-run shot.
"I think that was one of the best at-bats I've ever seen in person," Bryant said. "I was right there on deck, so maybe I'm a little biased, but I thought that was the best I've ever seen. He was just battling, fouling off tough pitches, changeup after changeup, and then he gets a fastball and hits it the other way. He'd probably say it was one of the best at-bats of his life."
In the ninth, after Schwarber drew his third walk of the night, Bryant blasted a 3-2 offering from Matt Grace over the fence in left-center field.
Bryant went 4-for-6 on the night with three runs scored and five RBIs.
It was his second career three-homer game (June 27, 2016, vs. Cincinnati). Bryant is now up to 11 home runs on the season, tied with Javier Baez and Willson Contreras for the team lead.
Bryant's three-homer game comes nearly a year to the day after his 2018 season took a turn for the worse. Bryant sustained a shoulder injury last May 19 on a headfirst slide against the Reds. While he remained in the lineup for the next month, the nagging shoulder injury later forced Bryant to miss 50 games. He finished the year with a career-low 13 homers.
Manager Joe Maddon says Bryant is now looking more like the player who took home 2015 National League Rookie of the Year Award and 2016 NL MVP honors.
"He's gradually been getting back on track," Maddon said. "We've seen him consistently hit the ball harder over the last two or three weeks. Even some of the pitches he fouled off tonight, I liked the swing. He was very forceful and on time. He just looks like he [did] a couple of years ago, and he's also reacting with the same kind of confidence, so it's a good thing to watch."
Bryant says he never doubted he could regain that form, despite last season's shoulder injury.
"Not at all because it wasn't an injury that required surgery or stuff like that," he said. "It was really just rehab and getting it strong. So no, it never crossed my mind. I don't think as an athlete you can let those thoughts creep in because that'll just paralyze you."
Albert Almora Jr. started the Cubs' homer parade with a two-run homer off Scherzer in the second inning, projected to travel 445 feet, per Statcast. Almora's blast and a two-run shot from Contreras in the ninth bookended the Cubs' six home runs in the game.
Baez extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games, with an RBI double off Scherzer in the first.
Anthony Rizzo went 1-for-5 and was hit by a pitch, as he returned to the lineup after a four-game absence due to back tightness.
With Schwarber expected to remain in the leadoff spot for the next few days against righties, Maddon is looking forward to seeing the Bryant-Rizzo-Baez-Contreras quartet provide the Cubs with plenty of punch in the heart of the lineup.
"They're all capable of big homer and big RBI numbers," Maddon said. "The biggest thing for that to occur is to really create a finite strikeout zone a little bit more. If we force the pitcher over the plate, we're going to be really good for a while."