CHICAGO -- It was a familiar scene at Wrigley Field. A player helped to his feet and a teammate throwing an arm around his shoulder for support. The slow walk back to the dugout as the crowd noise softens at the sight of a star player being helped off the field.
One week ago, it was Anthony Rizzo. On Sunday afternoon, Kris Bryant joined the list of walking wounded.
In the third inning of the Cubs' 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, Bryant injured his right ankle after slipping on first base. Rizzo, who is dealing with a healing right ankle of his own, helped his teammate to his feet before letting two members of the Cubs' medical team complete the trek back to the home dugout.
"It's tough," Rizzo said. "I talked to him. He's feeling OK. Hopefully it's not too long, but it's just a tough series."
The Cubs announced that Bryant sustained a sprained right ankle, but X-rays taken of his foot came back negative for any fractures. Bryant will undergo an MRI exam on Monday's team off-day and the club is planning on announcing the results prior to Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh.
With the game caught in a 1-1 deadlock and Rizzo at first, Bryant chopped a pitch from Miles Mikolas up the line to third baseman Matt Carpenter. Trying to fend off an inning-ending double play, Bryant hustled up the first-base line through a light rain. Bryant lunged for the bag, his right foot skidding across the top before the third baseman rolled his ankle and tumbled to the dirt.
While the injury seemed centered around Bryant's right ankle, it is worth noting that the Cubs star has also been playing through a right knee issue that has been problematic throughout the second half. When Bryant reached Chicago's dugout, he made his way slowly down the steps without putting any weight on the leg.
During the Cubs' Sept. 15 game against the Pirates, it was Rizzo who rolled his ankle badly while fielding a bunt. He was helped off the field by Jason Heyward and into the dugout by Albert Almora Jr. Four days later, Rizzo ditched his supportive medical scooter and walking boot and made a stunning return to the starting lineup for a Cubs team doing all it can to stave off elimination.
Every team deals with injuries, but the Cubs' have had a pile of significant setbacks arise in the past few weeks, hindering the team's push for a postseason spot.
"It's been a tough, tough series for the boys," Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. said. "You never want to see a brother go down like that, especially in that manner. It's scary. Luckily, it wasn't what we all feared."
Besides Rizzo, Cubs shortstop Javier Báez returned to the batter's box on Saturday night while still dealing with a hairline fracture in his left hand. Báez struck out to end a wild, 9-8 loss, and Sunday's defeat pushed the North Siders four games back of the Brewers and Nationals for an NL Wild Card spot.
Chicago is also currently without starting pitcher Cole Hamels (left shoulder fatigue) and only recently had closer Craig Kimbrel (right elbow inflammation) return from the injured list. A recent concussion to shortstop Addison Russell prompted the Cubs to summon rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner from Double-A Tennessee earlier this month, too.
Losing Bryant would be another tough blow for Chicago, which has an off-day Monday before embarking on a regular-season-ending trip through Pittsburgh and St. Louis for the last six games. In 147 games this year, Bryant has hit .282/.382/.521 with 31 homers, 35 doubles, 77 RBIs and 108 runs scored. He owns a 134 wRC+ and ranked 10th in the NL in WAR (4.9 via FanGraphs) entering Sunday.
Ian Happ replaced Bryant at third base in Sunday's game and would be among a handful of options for that spot down the stretch. David Bote, Robel Garcia, Ben Zobrist and Daniel Descalso can also play third.
"He's a great player for us and in MLB, for sure," Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish said. "That was a tough loss, too. But we still have to win [Tuesday]."