Bryant gives Cubs leg up with baserunning
Rookie triggers win with crafty slide, hustles home on challenged play
CHICAGO -- Cubs fans get giddy over Kris Bryant's home runs, but it's the rookie's baserunning that has impressed manager Joe Maddon.
Bryant tallied a challenged run in the fourth and scored the game-winner in the ninth on Starlin Castro's walk-off RBI single in the Cubs' 4-3 victory Saturday night over the Reds.
Let's start with the fourth. Bryant doubled to lead off and moved up on Miguel Montero's single. Castro then hit a grounder to shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who threw home. Bryant was called out, but the Cubs challenged, and the call was overturned to give Chicago a 3-1 lead.
"He did not assume [Suarez] was not going to throw the ball to the plate," Maddon said. "I would say at least 75 percent of Major Leaguers would assume the ball was not coming to the plate and would've been out because they did not run like he did."
Did Bryant anticipate the throw home?
"I did not," Bryant said. "I thought I got down the line pretty quick to get in there. It was a good slide, and I'm glad they overturned it. It ended up being a pretty crucial run for us."
Play was interrupted for 2 hours, 48 minutes by rain after the fifth, and when the game resumed, the Reds tied it in the sixth on Suarez's two-run homer.
The Cubs had a chance in the eighth, and despite collecting a double, double and single that inning, they did not score.
"That's hard to do, actually," Maddon said of the eighth. "Frustrating to a certain extent. Very gratifying on a bigger scale because of the way we came back."
Bryant lined the ball to left-center to lead off the ninth and did not hesitate. He slid into second with his second double of the game.
"[It was a] 2-0 pitch, and I figured [Tony Cingrani] would throw me something good to hit," Bryant said. "I just wanted to be aggressive in that spot. I knew the ball would be wet [because of the rain]. [Billy Hamilton] made a good throw there, and I had a pretty good slide. It worked for us."
Montero was then hit by a pitch to set up Castro, and Bryant scored.
"His impact to me was with his legs today -- fabulous job on the bases," Maddon said.
"I really wanted to get out there that last inning," Bryant said. "I was ready to do anything for the team."
He has not homered since May 26, but Maddon isn't worried. He sees a solid approach by the third baseman.
"Guys like that, they'll do it in clumps," Maddon said. "They'll get three, four, five [home runs] in a week or 10 days. He's on the verge of getting clumpy."
That's meant as a compliment.
"He understands the importance of playing the entire game," Maddon said of Bryant. "That's what's impressive to me. That's what I want our guys to be, that's what I want our Minor League guys to be -- play the entire game all the time, don't be an assumptionist. Come out and play the game and do not permit the other team to break your will."