The hard-hit fly ball from Eugenio Suarez looked trouble-some from the start. Jason Heyward tracked it from center field and sprinted for the gap. Kris Bryant ran toward the same spot from his position in right field.
Moments later, the outfielders collided. Bryant took the brunt of the impact and dropped to the ground. So did the ball.
The crash in the sixth inning was the scariest moment in a shoddy performance for the Cubs, who lost 10-2 to the Reds in the rubber match of a three-game series.
“It was a tough, bad game,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We got banged up a little bit. But that stuff happens. It’s part of the season. What you [measure] is how you bounce back from something like that.”
That depends on how quickly Bryant returns. He remained under evaluation by the Cubs’ medical staff after the game and was not permitted to speak with reporters.
Maddon said Bryant sustained an injury to his head and neck area. He wasn’t sure if Bryant would need to go through MLB’s concussion protocol and said the postgame evaluation would help determine his status for the upcoming series against the Astros. Bryant was cleared to fly south with the team.
After the collision, Bryant left the game, walking slowly off the field alongside a trainer. He fixed his gaze toward the ground in front of him and rubbed his forehead several times before he reached the dugout.
Heyward said he called for the ball on the play, but Bryant never heard him.
“We both fought hard to make a play,” Heyward said during a brief, terse interview with reporters. “We ran into each other.”
Did crowd noise make it difficult to hear one another?
“That’s part of it.”
Did Bryant call for the ball, too?
“I don’t know.”
Maddon blamed the breakdown on miscommunication in the outfield but acknowledged that noise and wind made for a difficult play.
“It is loud,” Maddon said. “Even when I go out there to see [Bryant], my goodness, everything is right in your face, and I could see where it’d be very difficult to hear one another. It’s just a combination of things. It’s probably the first time I think we’ve done that all year, so it’s going to happen at some point.”
The game marked Bryant’s eighth start in right field this season. He also has started 30 games at third base and two as designated hitter.
Maddon brushed off the notion that Bryant’s relative inexperience in right field might have contributed to the collision. The Cubs have shuffled their defensive lineup throughout the season, with players frequently rotating positions.
“I’ve seen some really stable outfielders, guys that are there all the time, do the same thing,” Maddon said. “[Heyward and Bryant have] been out there before together. [Heyward] has been in center and K.B. has been in right.
“It’s just . . . it happened. It’s going to happen again — hopefully not for a while — but I don’t worry about stuff like that.”
The Cubs gave up 17 hits, committed two errors and trailed 7-0 in the sixth. The pain began early with Suarez’s RBI single in the first, followed by Joey Votto scoring from third on a double-play grounder, putting the Cubs in a 2-0 hole. The Reds piled on with a four-run sixth.
Backup catcher Victor Caratini pitched the ninth, allowing two runs.
“It’s already in the trash can,” Maddon said. “They got us early — some well-placed ones. If it was a fight, it would have been stopped on cuts, right? That’s the old [Vin] Scully line. It’s just one of those things.
“This whole series, we’ve been giving up a lot of that stuff. So let’s flush it out and move on.”