CHICAGO -- If anyone can handle the emotional swing of hitting a game-tying home run, followed shortly by committing an error opening the door for a ninth-inning loss, it’s Chicago Cubs rookie third baseman Kris Bryant.
“It’s tough,” Bryant said after the Cincinnati Reds' 7-4 victory on Wednesday. “Obviously you’re on cloud nine when you hit a game-tying home run, then you blow it the next inning. Sometimes baseball works that way. It’s a crazy game. It gives you everything then takes everything away.”
Bryant didn’t quite show the same emotion that 31,165 at Wrigley Field expressed in a wild finish which almost saw the Cubs earn a second consecutive late-inning victory. It wasn’t meant to be, even after Bryant’s 22nd home run of the season, his seventh hit in the eighth inning or later this year. (That’s tops in baseball.) But his 16th error is also tops among National League third baseman. That will be of little concern when Rookie of the Year voting takes place. Bryant is having a monster season for a first-year player and is clearly the front-runner for the award.
Still, it doesn’t take away from the sting of the two-out error as he allowed a ball hit by Jay Bruce to go through his legs. Joey Votto followed with a 3-run home run off Hector Rondon and when it was over, the Cubs had lost two of three at home to the lowly Reds.
“It’s different but that’s not an excuse for letting it go through me,” Bryant said of the ball coming off a left-handed bat. “I’ve made that play plenty of times in my career.”
Joe Maddon added: “That ball was on him so quickly. There’s nothing to point fingers there. He’s been playing really well.”
Some might actually be pointing fingers at Maddon for some inconsistent decision-making this week. On Monday night, he intentionally walked Votto with men on first and second only to have Brandon Phillips single in two runs. After Bryant’s error in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game, he let closer Hector Rondon pitch to Votto this time.
“It was a different pitcher and I felt good about Ronnie right there,” Maddon explained. “We should have zigged when we zagged.”
Maddon is referring to the third consecutive fastball Rondon threw to Votto on a 2-0 count, which he hammered into the left-center-field bleachers. Maddon got burned walking Votto and burned pitching to him.
“It’s a different situation entirely,” Maddon said of Wednesday. “Your closer is out there. He’s been fabulous.”
The bigger issue might be throwing him a 2-0 hittable fastball. Maddon admitted the count at that moment could have dictated a change in strategy. In other words, already halfway to a walk, maybe Rondon should have just finished it himself.
“I had two outs,” Rondon said. “I tried to get out of the inning. I didn’t want to pitch around him. What can I say?”
So the Cubs have lost three consecutive series with a day off before the final 30-game stretch begins. Luckily, Votto is leaving town but the Cubs can say hello to Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s just as good. No one said a playoff race would be easy.