LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood is just up the road, though it came to Dodger Stadium on Friday night as the Chicago Cubs hosted their celebrity fans in a suite for the series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What actors and comedians -- including Jeremy Piven, Jeff Garlin and Bob Newhart -- saw was a script play out that they might not have believed if it didn’t happen in front of their eyes:
Two Cubs -- the one having the team’s best season and the one having the team’s worst -- ignited a late, come-from-behind 6-4 win, delivering their team its four consecutive victory.
It started with MVP candidate Kris Bryant hitting his 34th home run of the year in the eighth inning, pulling the Cubs to within one run of the Dodgers. Then the struggling Jason Heyward doubled to open the ninth, eventually scoring to tie it, before -- you guessed it -- Bryant did it again by hitting his 35th home run in the 10th inning to give the visitors the lead for good. The MVP chants followed from the stands and then his own locker room a few minutes later. This is a man absolutely on fire at the plate.
“It’s pretty cool,” Bryant said of the chanting after the game. “You grow up hearing that stuff on television. Hearing it now is kind of humbling and it keeps me going and determined to do more. It’s pretty cool hearing it.”
What more can Bryant do this season?
Even while batting second, he has caught and passed teammate Anthony Rizzo in RBIs (89) and now leads the Cubs in all three Triple Crown categories. He’s making the case an easier one by the day to become the first player in history to win an MVP award after winning college player of the year, minor league player of the year and rookie of the year.
Could his own preseason goals actually be higher than what he’s reaching?
“I’m not going to say,” he stated, shaking his head. “I look at them every day. I think if you write them down, you’re more likely to achieve them.”
Bryant was asked if he was the type to make his goals attainable or, in essence, unachievable -- raising the bar so high that he has to keep reaching for them.
“You have to put them that way,” Bryant said, choosing the latter notion. “It’s what keeps me going and determined. They’re not just individual goals. They’re team goals, mental goals, off-the-field goals. Those types of things.”
If Bryant’s goals included hitting 50 home runs, he just might get there, as his August production has thrust him to the top of the MVP race. He’s hitting .378 with a 1.202 OPS this month, having homered in seven of the past eight games and nine times overall in August.
But his second home run on Friday never would have happened without Heyward’s ninth-inning heroics. Heyward has had the exact opposite August, hitting just .212 with a .542 OPS. But there he was, squaring up a ball against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to open the inning.
“It felt good to get a hit,” Heyward said. “I don’t care about squaring it up. I got something to show for it there at the end. It was a big spot to do it in.”
Heyward’s double followed by two wild pitches tied the game 4-4 before Bryant hit his game-winner the next inning. For good measure, Heyward blooped a ball to left field in the 10th, raising his average to .227 after seeing it dip below .225 earlier in the night. Bryant was asked about his struggling teammate.
“It inspires me,” he said. “It makes me want to be like him. Always keeping his head up, always being positive, I can’t say enough about him.”
Manager Joe Maddon simply stated of Heyward: “The guy is a winner.”
You won’t hear a bad word out of the Cubs regarding their right fielder as his professionalism overcomes any negative results he produces. Who knows, maybe late Friday was the start of a run for Heyward, though it’s unlikely to match the one Bryant is on as this is his best stretch as a major leaguer.
“I don’t know if I’ve played with a season like this one?” Heyward said of Bryant’s year. “Not this one.”
No one on the Cubs has seen this -- or heard it. As Bryant rounded the bases and touched home on his shot to right center in the 10th, “MVP, MVP” could be heard coming from the stands in historic Dodger Stadium.
For a visiting player.
“It’s a testament to our fans,” Bryant said of the cheers.
They would undoubtedly say it was a testament to him.