Bryant's bat finally shows signs of life
In Kris Bryant's view, hitting slumps are an essential part of life.
"That's just the way of baseball, you go up and down," he said. "That means you're living. When it's flat, that means you're dead. It's as simple as that.
"You ride the waves and realize it's not always going to go your way, you have to keep your head up, come out ready to play."
Bryant was in a 2-for-32 slump and had gone a career-long 48 at-bats without an extra-base hit when he homered in his second at-bat Tuesday. Bryant also coaxed three walks in the two games against Cleveland, which might be a sign he's heading in the right direction.
Bryant's struggle mirrors the Cubs' roller coaster season. They started the year historically bad at the plate, then were one of the best offensive teams in MLB for about six or seven weeks. Now they're in another collective slump, with an MLB-worst .185 team batting average in June.
One could argue the Cubs should have broken out Tuesday against Cleveland starter Eli Morgan, who was making his third big-league start and left the mound with a 10.32 ERA. Bryant's home run was the Cubs' only hit off Morgan through five innings, before they broke through with 4 runs in the sixth. The 7-1 victory ended a run of the Cubs scoring no more than 3 runs in nine straight games.
Bryant didn't support the good pitching vs. bad pitching argument, however.
"All the pitching is great in the big leagues," he said. "Since 2015, I've seen an unbelievable change in just the nastiest pitches I've ever seen. Anytime you say, 'Oh, you faced good pitching,' it's like, 'Eh, well I've felt like that since April 1.'
"Everybody's a good pitcher in this league. Yeah, it's nice to say, 'Hey, it was a good pitcher, you battled, this and that.' I don't believe in that too often because they're all really good."
Maybe the pitching isn't as good as it used to be with MLB cracking down on use of illegal substances. Already in the past few weeks, average spin rate is measurably down since the warnings came out, while offensive numbers are up.
On Monday, umpires started checking pitchers during games for illegal sticky substances, a practice that turned comical with Washington's Max Scherzer and Oakland's Sergio Romo removing belts.
"I'm all for it," Bryant said of checking pitchers. "I'm all for keeping it out of the game, because I feel like at first, we were so stupid as hitters, saying, 'Oh yeah, it's for control. We just don't want them to hit us.' And that was such a cop-out.
"I love that things are kind of going the other way and whatever. If we get hit, we get on-base percentage. That's kind of the way the game has been going the last few years."
Bryant also had an interesting perspective on batting practice and explained why he prefers to work on his swing in the indoor batting cage as opposed to the traditional pregame, on the field batting practice.
"Because you get outside and you're more concerned with what the ball looks like after it hits your bat," Bryant said. "I think we're all guilty of that. We all want to see balls going in the stands and feel really good about that.
"But I feel when I'm taking batting practice on the field, I expect perfection and anything short of that, I get frustrated with myself. Whereas if I do feel perfect, then I'm expecting that, so it's kind of a lose-lose situation. That's why I am a big believer in just working in the cage and focusing on your swing and not the result of the ball flying into the field."
The Cubs had Wednesday off before opening a four-game series in Los Angeles, which Bryant says is one of his favorite places to play. The Cubs used a "Space Jam" dress-up theme for the late-night flight to the West Coast.
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