Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki hits inside-the-park homer vs. Brewers in first game back from IL

Suzuki returned Monday after over five weeks on the IL with a sprained left ring finger.

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Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki reacts after hitting an inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.

Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki reacts after hitting an inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.

John Fisher/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE — Seiya Suzuki raced around the bases as his line drive bounced off the contours of the center-field wall at American Family Field.

“I was thinking, ‘Stop me,’ ” Suzuki joked through interpreter Toy Matsushita. “My legs were getting pretty tired.”

Cubs third-base coach Willie Harris did no such thing, waving wildly as Suzuki approached third, sending him home with the game on the line. Suzuki dodged the tag at the plate for a go-ahead, inside-the-park home run off Brewers closer Josh Hader in the ninth inning.

But the Cubs lost the game Monday, falling 5-2 in 10 innings. Suzuki’s short-lived heroics came the same day the Cubs reinstated him from the 10-day injured list. To make room for Suzuki on the active roster, the Cubs optioned outfielder Narciso Crook to Triple-A Iowa.

“My injury prolonged my time out from this team, and I was very frustrated,” Suzuki said. “So this game kind of meant a lot to me.”

Suzuki had spent over five weeks on the IL with a sprained left ring finger, which he hurt sliding into second base in Cincinnati.

“He’s been itching [to get back] for a while,” manager David Ross said. “That’s why we’ve had the back-and-forth of trying to slow him down and making sure he’s 100%.”

Suzuki first tried to avoid an IL stint, then tried to return a couple weeks after the injury. But when the swelling persisted in his finger, and after seeking several doctors’ opinions, he and the Cubs agreed shutting him down from hitting again was the best course of action.

Suzuki returned after rehab at the Cubs’ spring-training complex in Mesa, Arizona, followed by a three-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa. He went 4-for-9 with a home run and two doubles with the I-Cubs.

“But it’s obviously different when you come up here,” Suzuki said. “So I did kind of feel some fatigue in the late innings in this game, but I was able to get over it. And I’m glad I was able to display some good results.”

Ross wrote Suzuki into the lineup playing right field and batting fourth. Suzuki told Ross in his office before the game: “I’m ready to go to war.”

“It’s nice,” Ross said before the game. “Getting him back and back in that lineup deepens everything, pushes some guys down [in the lineup]. When you get a guy like Seiya back who has a real track record, when he’s hot, he’s as good of a player as we have.”

Suzuki went 2-for-4, and his inside-the-park homer was the Cubs’ first since August 2017 (Javy Baez at San Francisco).

The outfield wall at American Family Field juts into a deep alcove at center. And Suzuki’s line drive to left-center caromed off an angled stretch of fence and shot across the entire alcove. That gave him enough time to circle the bases.

“After I rounded third, I saw the catcher [Victor Caratini] come towards me,” Suzuki said. “That’s when I thought, ‘I don’t want to get injured again.’ I just did my best to prevent another injury.”

He chose an outside lane going into home and slid by, sweeping his hand across the plate.

But the Cubs’ lead didn’t hold long. Reliever David Robertson gave up the tying run in the next inning by walking Brewers star Christian Yelich with the bases loaded. In the 10th, Caratini delivered a three-run homer.

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