Kris Bryant returns, sparks Cubs’ rally past Cardinals
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Kris Bryant showed it’s good to be young, healthy and a quick healer.
And clutch. That helps, too.
After testing his injured left pinkie in the batting cage, Bryant returned to the Cubs’ lineup and sparked their 3-2 comeback victory Saturday against the Cardinals.
He suffered the injury sliding headfirst into third base Wednesday in Atlanta and didn’t play Friday, but he went 2-for-4 in his return, tying the score with a broken-bat single in the eighth inning before scoring on Anthony Rizzo’s go-ahead double.
‘‘K.B. being able to play was the difference in today’s game,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘A combination of the hit and his speed.’’
With Bryant back, the Cubs were able to win for the seventh time in their last eight games. One reason for that was Bryant’s healing power, which brought him back after it was thought he might miss the entire series.
‘‘Some good supplements right there, man,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘That’s good fish oil.’’
Whether it was supplements and fish oil or the training staff, ice and hot and cold water that Bryant credited, it was the second time this season he returned from an injury earlier than expected. Bryant sprained his right ankle in late June in Washington but avoided a stint on the disabled list and missed only two games.
‘‘Our trainers were unbelievable,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘I can’t give them enough credit. They made me feel great. But maybe I am a fast healer.’’
Bryant said he took a few swings in the cage Friday and didn’t feel great, but he was encouraged. He woke up Saturday feeling better, tested the injury and was put into a lineup that was released much later than usual.
‘‘I feel bad because everybody has to wait for the lineup when you don’t know if you can play,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘But I was ready to go.’’
Bryant was worth the wait for the Cubs, who almost wasted another strong start from left-hander Jon Lester after struggling against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright for most of the day.
Coming off a one-run, seven-inning outing Monday against the Braves, Lester was almost as good against the Cardinals. He retired the first 17 batters he faced but fell behind 2-0 after allowing back-to-back home runs to Paul DeJong and Randal Grichuk in the eighth.
The Cubs, though, rallied for three runs in the bottom of the inning, with Ben Zobrist’s two-out double bringing in Jon Jay to cut the deficit in half. Bryant followed with his tying single, then dashed from first on a 3-2 pitch to score the decisive run on Rizzo’s double after center fielder Dexter Fowler’s throw short-hopped the plate. He took advantage of how deep the Cardinals’ outfield was playing and again showed the kind of baserunner he is.
‘‘The head start [on a 3-2 count] really does help, and something that I take pride in is my baserunning and surprising people,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘Hopefully I did that today.’’
In a National League Central that Maddon said might be close the rest of the way, the victory might mean something later.
‘‘It’s already Jaugust,’’ Maddon said, combining July and August. ‘‘There’s no waiting around right now. Everybody feels the same way, and we took advantage of the [All-Star] break, I believe. We’ve come back with renewed energy, and you don’t want to give up anything right now.’’
Follow me on Twitter @BrianSandalow.