With playoffs on the horizon, is Kris Bryant finding his offensive rhythm again?
After scoring 3 runs — including the game-winner — in Tuesday night’s victory over the Indians, Kris Bryant admitted it was good to see the Cubs lineup clicking on all cylinders, as the top few hitters all produced a good performance on the same night.
When Anthony Rizzo drove in Bryant with a double in the 5th inning, it was the first time all year the Cubs first baseman knocked in his “Bryzzo” business partner.
“Yeah, it’s a work in progress,” Bryant said. “A little adversity isn’t terrible. You learn to get through the tough times. I’m certainly in one of those.”
Bryant’s overall season numbers may not be where he wants them to be but he’s been looking a lot more like himself of late, hitting .290 with a .389 on-base percentage and .776 OPS over his last 8 games.
Wednesday night, he lined into a tough-luck double play, was hit by a pitch and helped set up the winning run by singling to lead off the 10th inning.
The night before, Bryant had a big game with a pair of walks and an RBI single.
It marked the fourth time this season Bryant reached safely three times in a ballgame and half of those instances have come within the last week of action:
July 31 (2 BBs, H)
Aug. 3 (2 Hs, BB)
Sept. 10 (2 Hs, BB)
Sept. 15 (2 BBs, H)
It was also only the second time this season he walked twice in a game, which is a positive sign that he’s seeing the ball well and comfortable at the plate.
Even after the 2-walk performance, Bryant is still drawing a free pass 7.2% of the time this season, down from his 11.7% career rate.
“A good walk kinda sets things in motion,” he said. “I looked at [the lack of walks], too. Looking at some of my at-bats, just trying not to be as anxious. You don’t really want to go up there and look for a walk — walks are just a byproduct of a good at-bat. [Tuesday], that was exactly what happened for me with those 2 walks — it was just the byproduct of a good at-bats.”
The kind of results he has seen over the last two weeks could be an important confidence boost for the former MVP and a comfortable, confident Bryant would be a boon to the Cubs lineup with the postseason on the horizon.
As he has worked to find his offensive rhythm, Bryant credits an understanding that this season is unlike anything he has experienced before in his career.
“What’s really helped me is I looked at some stretches over my career — 100 at-bat stretches where I have struggled — and going back to those times and thinking how I got myself out of that,” he said. “It’s so different for me this year because it’s all at the beginning of the shortened season, so there’s a lot of anxiety involved in going out there and playing every day.
“Whereas some of those struggles in the past, I already had a good chunk of the season under my belt. It wasn’t as noticeable to me. I’m just falling back on past failures and past successes to kind of just get my mind in the right spot. Like, ‘hey, I’ve been through this before, I’ve gotten through this. I’m a really good baseball player.'”
His manager has seen that mindset come out more lately, especially now that Bryant continues to put his midseason wrist injury in the rearview mirror.
“I see a positivity about him that he didn’t have before he had the wrist issue,” Ross said. “When you’re not playing well, you just get kinda down on yourself and he definitely is a guy that is hard on himself — a perfectionist kind of mentality and wants to do everything great and expects that. He’s done it for most of his life. So to have some adversity in hitting and performance is definitely, I think, something that’s kinda new to him.
“I’ve seen a guy that has a little bit more belief and confidence since he’s come back. The one thing that I’ve really been impressed with is his defensive attitude and work ethic — that has really stood out to me this year, in a season where that would be easy to punt on and not take the opportunity to get better in other ways. He’s still one of our best baserunners when he gets going on the bases and he’s playing great defense.
“I see a guy that I feel like is getting ready to carry us for a little bit, but that’s just a shot in the dark for me.”