The big news late Monday night at Wrigley Field was the Colorado Rockies’ trade of face-of-the-franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays after the game.
Whether Tulowitzki traveled to Toronto on the ball Kris Bryant hit to left-center to win the game with two out in the bottom of the ninth, two things quickly became clear:
1. Trade deadline week is open for business and starting to pop;
2. Bryant, the rookie All-Star who got little break during this month’s so-called break, is not as tired as his recent slump might have indicated – both hits driving in big runs Monday, including the two-run shot to beat the Rockies 9-8 after the Cubs blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth.
What’s not so clear is whether the emotional victory over the National League West’s last place team will give the struggling Cubs and their lineup a lift heading into the summer dog days.
“Who knows?” manager Joe Maddon said. “You’re always looking for those signs. Love the fight.”
Coming off a weekend of getting swept by the worst team in baseball and then blowing the big lead in the ninth Monday, the Cubs will take the escape act, and whatever it might do for Bryant.
He was hitting just .177 with a .662 OPS this month through Sunday – just 5-for-40 since playing in the All-Star game.
“I’ve been feeling actually really good body-wise,” said Bryant, who had hit a few deep flies that just missed going out recently. “I believe in baseball gods, and I believe they pay you back, and I guess I got one today.”
The victory was especially big for a team that over the weekend lost the wild-card position in the standings it had held for much of the last two months.
They’re now 6-8 during a stretch of 20 straight against sub-.500 teams. The Giants, who overtook the Cubs for playoff position, are 12-1 in a similar 21-game stretch after beating the Brewers Monday night.
As quickly as Jason Motte and Rafael Soriano conspired to give up four runs in the ninth to blow a 7-4 lead, Dexter Fowler’s one-out single and Bryant’s two-out homer off John Axford kept an ugly weekend from starting to look like an ugly spiral.
For at least one night
“It’s huge,” said starter Kyle Hendricks said, who gave up four but left the game in the sixth with a lead thanks to a six-run fourth. “Just to get a win was going to be big, but to get it like that – walk-off and for KB – I mean, it was awesome.
“And hopefully now that will vault us and hopefully to a winning streak.”
Said Bryant: “I think it kind of just wakes us up a little bit. I think we were kind of nonchalant the last couple games, myself included. But that energy of the walk-off win, walk-off home run – I think that’s going to pay off for us moving forward and just kind of spark that energy we had earlier in the year.”
–Edwin Jackson was officially released after clearing waivers, with the Cubs owing $15.6 million on the four-year, $52 million deal that runs through next year.
–Maddon said to expect to see more of catcher Kyle Schwarber in the outfield down the stretch after the rookie made a brief big-league debut in left Sunday. Schwarber, who started behind the plate Monday, will continue to get pregame work in the outfield on days he’s not catching.
–Infielder Tommy La Stella, who has missed all but two games this season because of an oblique injury, was examined again in Chicago Monday and is expected to start a rehab assignment this week for the first time since suffering a setback in the final scheduled at-bat of his first rehab assignment. “It happened. It’s unfortunate. But hopefully I’m getting back now at the right time,” he said.
–The Cubs are calling on AAA right-hander Dallas Beeler (one good start, one bad) to make a third spot start in Tuesday’s fifth-starter slot.