1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs: If you were waiting for his first walk-off home run, Bryant only kept you waiting little more than three months, ripping Rockies closer John Axford's flat slider into the farther reaches of the power alley in center to beat the Colorado Rockies 9-8 in a memorable Cubs comeback.
Now sure, it was a thing of pure beauty made up of little more than horsehide and kinetic energy. (And maybe not so much horsehide, since they stopped using the stuff more than 40 years ago.) It was also his fifth home run on a slider among the 14 he has hit this season.
But perhaps the most important thing beyond this being the first of presumably many walk-off home runs Cubs fans might expect from Bryant was that this was really the sort of pick-me-up this team needed right now, especially after getting swept by the Phillies, and after seeing the bullpen blow a three-run lead in the ninth.
Kris Bryant making all you salty son of a guns cheer up.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 28, 2015
The Cubs came into Monday night’s game 14-16 in their past 30 games, 9-11 in their past 20 and 4-6 in their past 10. This isn’t just some bad patch, it’s a team that has long since started to look like an also-ran, especially with two teams as strong as the Pirates and Giants ahead of them in the National League wild-card standings.
2. Alex Anthopoulos, Toronto Blue Jays: Trading Jose Reyes (and stuff) for Troy Tulowitzki (and LaTroy Hawkins) in an exchange of frustratingly oft-injured start shortstops? That isn’t just a challenge trade, it’s about as bold a move as you can imagine. Think about how that conversation might even start between GMs: “Tulo must be frustrating, worrying about the injuries.” “It’s a risk, but my kind of pain is your kind of pain.” “Well, let’s talk about that.” At this late hour, details are sketchy, but never let it be said that Anthopoulos’ ambition isn’t exactly like his team’s offense: Going long or going home. Skip just aiming for the postseason this year, though, the even more extraordinary thing about this is that it puts Tulo in Toronto through 2021, where Reyes is now Rockies property through 2018. We’ll see what that means ultimately for Jays shortstop prospects such as Richard Urena and Dawel Lugo, but if adding Tulo puts them into the mix at the deadline, the other benefit of this deal is that Anthopoulos may just be getting started.
3. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles: Expectations that Wieters would be a huge star go back to his ranking as the best prospect in baseball before the 2009 season, but they have yet to be fulfilled. After three seasons of banging out 22-23 homers in 2011-13, the past two years have been rough for Wieters, missing most of 2014 and the start of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and dealing with back trouble since he finally returned to action in June. So any news is good news, and getting a shot to mash on left-handed pitching with the game on the line? For Wieters, that’s probably perfect given his 100-point advantage against lefties as a switch-hitter, and getting a 1-0 fastball out over the plate from Braves southpaw Luis Avilan? Even better. Walk-off glory? Better still.
4. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies: CarGo’s two-homer night in Wrigley Field went for naught in the standings, but if there’s another Rockie trying to put himself into trade talks, it might be him. This was Gonzalez’s third two-homer game in the past four games, and his seventh blast hit in a week to quickly get him to 20 on the season.
5. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals: Wong’s grand slam provided all of the scoring for the Cardinals in their 4-1 win over the Reds. When you sift through how the Cardinals are so far out ahead, is there any guy in their lineup who better reflects how they’re getting it done? I know that Jason Heyward is every stathead’s favorite all-around outfielder because of his value via OBP and all-world defense, and Jhonny Peralta’s first two seasons at shortstop have made GM John Mozeliak look very smart indeed. But Wong is the homegrown grinder providing excellent defense and surprising power, and on a roster on which perhaps only Randal Grichuk is having an insanely great year relative to what you expected, he has been the Cardinals I’ve had the most fun following this season.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.