Still with the Cubs, Bryant back to his slugging ways

Sports

Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant hits a two-run home run against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Whatever the future holds, Kris Bryant is giving the Chicago Cubs plenty of production so far in 2021.

Bryant is hitting .303 with 10 home runs in 37 games, and he is second in the National League with an OPS of 1.032. That’s quite a rebound after he batted .206 in last year’s pandemic-shortened season. Bryant was the subject of trade rumors in the offseason, but the Cubs eventually brought him back on a $19.5 million deal.

Bryant can become a free agent at the end of this season after he was one day shy of eligibility at the end of 2020. He lost a grievance that claimed the Cubs delayed his call-up as a rookie in 2015 to put off his free agency by a year.

Chicago is certainly benefitting from the fact that Bryant remained under team control this year — and perhaps Bryant will have more success entering free agency a few months from now than he would have following a disappointing 2020. Despite his efforts, the Cubs are a game under .500. They did win the NL Central last year, but changes could be coming.

Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo also have expiring contracts, and Jed Hoyer, the team’s president of baseball operations, said before the season it was “unrealistic” to keep every player who was a significant part of the team’s World Series title in 2016.

Chicago’s starting pitchers have an ERA of 5.03, the worst mark in the National League, and that’s held the Cubs back so far this season. They’ll have to hope Kyle Hendricks’ performance Sunday — one run in eight innings — is a sign of things to come.

SPEAKING OF PITCHING

Only one team in baseball has a worse ERA for its starters than the Cubs. That’s the Los Angeles Angels at 5.38. Mike Trout has again been fantastic for the Angels, and Shohei Ohtani already has a dozen homers, but it may be the pitching side of Ohtani’s contributions that is most crucial going forward.

The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.10 ERA, but he’s pitched only 25 2/3 innings in five starts, and he has 20 walks.

TRIVIA TIME

The Cubs drafted Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in 2013. He won MVP honors in the National League three years later. Which other future MVP was drafted in 2013?

LINE OF THE WEEK

Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar had two home runs and seven RBIs in an 11-4 victory over Washington on Saturday. It’s been an unusual season for Escobar, who has nine homers already but is hitting just .214.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

The Cincinnati Reds trailed Colorado 6-1 in the eighth Sunday before scoring four runs that inning and adding two more in the ninth. They won 7-6, and they completed that comeback without hitting a home run through the Denver thin air. In fact, Cincinnati scored the tying run in the ninth on a passed ball and the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

The Rockies had a 98.8% chance to win during the seventh inning, according to Baseball Savant.

HIGHLIGHT

The defensive shift sometimes puts players in unusual situations, and that was certainly true Saturday when Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs hit a popup into foul ground near third base. Because the third baseman wasn’t playing in his normal spot, Detroit catcher Eric Haase had the best shot at the ball, and after a long run, he managed to make a diving catch to the left of the coaching box at third.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Cody Bellinger was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round in 2013. He won the MVP in 2019.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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