CINCINNATI – Anyone who missed how big a night Kris Bryant had in Cincinnati on Monday will be able to see clearly what it meant to him, at least, when he takes the field Tuesday.
The second-year slugger plans to wear his emotions on the seat of his pants.
After tearing a hole in the pants sliding into third base after a first-inning double, Bryant went on to produce a hitting display never before seen in 140 years of franchise history, including three home runs, to power the Cubs to an 11-8 victory over the Reds.
“I’ve never been the superstitious type, but everybody in the dugout was saying, `It’s the hole in the pants,’ “ he said. “I’m going to wear those until they’re done.”
Bryant, who entered the game on a 3-for-21 slide, added two doubles to his three home runs for a franchise-record 16 total bases.
He’s the only player in major-league history with three homers and two doubles in a game – one of only three to have an extra-base hit in at least five at-bats, with three of them home runs, joining Josh Hamilton (2012) and Joe Adcock (1954), each of whom hit four homers and a double.
“That was almost like a home run derby, with those three home runs,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They way they sounded off the bat, everything.”
The first one went out to center field. The next two reached the upper deck in left field – including one that cleared the first seating section of the upper deck.
“I’ll remember this one for a long time,” said Bryant, who along the way became the youngest Cub to hit three in a game – 10 days younger than Ernie Banks when he did it in 1955.
Bryant caught Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall for a share of the National League’s home run lead with 21; he shot to third in the league in RBIs (57) and he might have launched an MVP campaign on this historic night.
But his biggest feat might have been in overshadowing reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whose command issues reared up again in another abbreviated, five-inning, high-pitch-count start.
“Kris was overall the reason we won that game,” said Arrieta, who was irritated at his season-high five walks (four of which came around to score) and inability again to pitch deep into the game because of it. “I was my own worst enemy.”
Arrieta (12-2), whose last start in Cincinnati was a no-hitter that overshadowed a 4-for-6, two-homer night by Bryant, has lasted just five innings in six of his 12 starts since then.
But on this night, Bryant led a 17-hit attack that also included homers by Anthony Rizzo and Arrieta to help Arrieta become the league’s first 12-game winner. And to remind Arrieta what he used to tell people a year ago in spring training when asked for his scouting report on the top prospect in the game at the time.
“I’d tell them he’s going to be a top-5 hitter in the league as soon as he gets into the big leagues,” Arrieta said. “Not to put any pressure on him, but that’s the guy he is. I saw it from Day 1. He has power to all fields, very few holes [in his swing], which is tough to do as a rookie.
“And this is the type of – he’s not going to hit three homers every game – but this is what he’s capable of.”
The right-hander with the greatest 20-game finish in major league history last year has walked 19 in his last 35 innings. He called it an “easy fix” after his previous start.
“Still is,” he said after his MLB-best 1.74 ERA rose to 2.10. “It’s getting ahead in the count. When I see guys up there just auto-take the first pitch and I’m out of the strike zone, that’s what I put the emphasis on.”
Could be worse.
“I’ve got a 2 [ERA]. I’ve got 12 wins,” he said. “I’m fine.”
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