CINCINNATI — It was all Kris Bryant could do to keep from wincing as he talked about the pitch that hit him Tuesday night, near the same place on his left hand that he sprained in Atlanta a month ago.
At least he could laugh. Not only were X-rays negative, but the Cubs won an ugly marathon game 13-9 against the Reds — a game so ugly that Bryant’s replacement at third in the bottom of the ninth was his pal Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo became the first left-handed-throwing player to play third base in the majors since the White Sox’ Mario Valdez in 1997, and the first to play both second (on bunt defenses) and third in the same season since Wee Willie Keeler in 1901.
“The only thing left,” manager Joe Maddon said of his options for subbing out Bryant after the ninth-inning HBP, “was either [Alex] Avila at third, which is no fun, or Rizzo at third, Avila at first, which is fun.”
Rizzo is the third lefty Cub to man third base and the first since George Decker played three games there in 1895.
“Great, now we’re going to have to hear about it,” said Bryant, who was ruled out for Wednesday’s game in Cincinnati but wasn’t expected to miss much time. “He’s probably letting everybody hear about it now, sending 50 text messages. Gosh, now he’ll put his Twitter bio as a third baseman.”
Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, could joke freely through the pain of the fresh bruise only because he appeared to escape — for the third time in less than two months — serious injury after an ugly mishap.
“It could have been a lot worse,” said Bryant, who missed only one game in June after twisting his ankle on the bag at third while catching a popup, and only one more after the sprain in Atlanta. “That area is real fragile. There’s a lot of stuff going on there. I feel real fortunate.”
The entire team should have felt the same way on a day that seemed to carry the strange, cosmic residue of Monday’s solar eclipse.
Consider that Ben Zobrist, who came off the bench in the seventh to double home the go-ahead runs in a comeback win, was somewhere between Nashville, Tennessee, and Cincinnati while the rest of the team took batting practice Tuesday.
“It was a frustrating morning and afternoon,” said Ben Zobrist, whose rental car agency failed to hold his reservation and didn’t have a car for him when he showed up Tuesday morning to make the drive from his home in Nashville. “I’m just happy I made it and was able to contribute something to the game. . . . I’ve had nightmares about being late to games before. And when you show up and can’t stay in the lineup because you’re showing up too late, it was a tough day.”
Ian Happ, replacing Zobrist in the lineup, walked in the Cubs’ three-run fifth, eventually thrown out at the plate trying to score on Jason Heyward’s tying single to end the inning. He also singled home a run in the Cubs’ five-run eighth.
Zobrist added a run-scoring grounder in the big eighth.
It took more than four hours, included nine Cubs walks, a piece of infield history and at least one X-ray, but the Cubs got their fourth consecutive win as they continued their run through a stretch against last-place teams. They reached 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing last season with 103 victories and moved to three games ahead of the second-place Brewers, who played late at San Francisco.
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