Kris Bryant smiled when he fielded the 30th out of the 7th game of the most elusive title in American professional sports. He smiled because reflected back in those bright blue eyes in that moment was the light of realization that the wait and the weight were over.
Though the play was routine in nature, it will stand as one of the indelible images of an event many of us were never audacious enough to really believe we’d ever see. Sure, we’d all dreamed about a Cubs World Series title, but to see it played out in real life was overwhelming. So much so that I think we may have overlooked some of Bryant’s contributions to the win, which came not from his towering home runs but from stellar baserunning.
We don’t expect big men to move with uncanny speed, and Bryant’s not necessarily known as a burner. I mean, those long strides eat up all kinds of real estate on the basepaths and he’s very savvy, but he’s not the guy you’re necessarily counting on to change the game a steal or other wild running play. That’s exactly what he did Wednesday night, though, and his ability to score in two relatively unlikely situations had an enormous impact.
With the game tied 1-1 in the 4th and Bryant on third, Addison Russell lifted a lazy pop fly to short left center for a disappointing second out. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp converged on it, with the centerfielder taking charge and making the play. Then Davis became a blur of motion as he fired the play toward home in what I assumed was a precautionary move. Wait, was KB actually tagging on that?
Like a sprinter coming out of the blocks, Bryant flew toward home and took advantage of a high throw as he slid under the tag of Roberto Perez to give the Cubs the lead.
The advantage was 4-1 when Bryant drew a two-out walk in the top of the 5th and got aggressive with his lead, taking off to start the hit-and-run. Anthony Rizzo shot a single to right and Bryant never stopped, rounding third as Lonnie Chisenhall fielded and threw home. The play wasn’t even close this time, as Perez still had his back to the plate when Bryant once again slid safely into home.
The home runs from Dexter Fowler, Javy Baez, and David Ross might be bigger stories, but the NL MVP tagging on a shallow pop and reaching nearly 20 mph as he raced from first to home in under nine seconds was just as important.
This game had so many huge moments, stories inside of stories that will provide fodder for conversations and posts for a long time to come and I plan on milking it for all it’s worth. As I thought back on where to start, I just remembered watching and remarking at how fast Bryant was moving. As corny as it sounds, it seemed as though he was being driven by something more than his own physical prowess.
Maybe, just maybe, a certain Hall of Fame third baseman who’d been watching from his box seat decided to give his beloved Cubs a little push. I can see Ronnie sneaking past Gary Jones and exhorting Bryant with a “Here we go, big boy” as he provided a final boost.
Then he clicked his heels and shared a beer with Harry and Ernie and so many others as Bryant and the Cubs brought a championship home.