Kris Bryant misses the mark as Cubs fall to Padres

SHARE Kris Bryant misses the mark as Cubs fall to Padres
SHARE Kris Bryant misses the mark as Cubs fall to Padres

Kris Bryant came to the plate for the first time Friday at Wrigley Field to a standing ovation.

The hype surrounding the prized prospect’s debut with the Cubs had become so intense, it was almost a foregone conclusion in fans’ minds that he’d be an instant hero.

But there was no storybook ending to Bryant’s first game on the North Side. Padres ace James Shields threw him three consecutive sliders in his first at-bat, and Bryant whiffed on all three.

Batting in the cleanup spot, Bryant struck out to end his first three plate appearances in an 0-for-4 day that ended in a 5-4 loss.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life,” Bryant said. “I went out there and tried to do too much in those four at-bats. It was good for me to experience that.”

It actually was a familiar way for Bryant to start a new chapter in his career.

Cubs president Theo Epstein spent a great deal of his morning news conference talking about Bryant’s pro debut for the Class A Boise Hawks two years ago.

Bryant went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts.

“We had to remind ourselves not to overreact to that, too,” Epstein said. “And sure enough, in a couple weeks he was dominating and moving up the ladder.”

Bryant looked overmatched against Shields in his first at-bat. To be fair, Shields has overmatched a number of hitters this year — he’s 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA. Shields struck out nine in six innings.

Bryant’s second at-bat brought more fastballs and changeups instead of sliders. Shields got ahead 0-2 after Bryant looked at a strike and fouled off a couple of pitches, but Bryant battled back to a full count. He struck out on a changeup.

The third at-bat was as underwhelming as the first. Bryant saw only four pitches before striking out on a slider.

In the seventh inning, the Padres intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo to get to Bryant. He had a chance to play the hero with the Cubs down a run and two men on base, but he grounded out to end the inning and silence the crowd that was chanting his name.

“I felt like I was trying to do a little too much because I was hearing all that stuff,” Bryant said of the cheers. “I’m usually pretty good at blocking all that out, and I think as time goes by I’ll get better at it. But it was pretty special to hear that today.”

Bryant seemed wholly unfazed by the poor day at the plate. He came out of the tunnel with a smile on his face in the morning and met the media after the game still grinning from ear to ear as he described his less-than-stellar hitting performance.

The first words out of his mouth?

“It was fun,” he said. “Sure, I could have done a little better. I just absorbed everything. It was a fun moment. The smells, the sounds and playing in front of 30,000 people. I think that’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, and they’re all cheering for [me].”

Joe Maddon, who was ejected in the seventh for arguing balls and strikes, had only two expectations of Bryant in his debut: “Play hard and enjoy yourself.”

He surely loved the way Bryant comported himself, particularly after his day at the plate.

“How you process the day mentally, that’s what sets you apart,” Maddon said. “I think he’s pretty good at that.”

Email: djust@suntimes.com

Twitter: davidjustCST

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