If you happened to catch any of the US Open this past weekend, you no doubt learned a bit about vertigo and heard enough about ball striking to make you want to start a drinking game centered around the phrase. I’m sure you also lamented FOX’s coverage, which, with Joe Buck at the helm, was more arid than the Chambers Bay greens on Sunday afternoon.
But as ridiculous as that links-style course was, Clayton Kershaw’s curveball is even more insane. It’s really unfair when you’re gifted with such a perfect pitch, particularly when said pitch is unleashed upon a mere mortal like Gregor Blanco.
Dude had no chance. Most dudes have no chance. But Kris Bryant isn’t most dudes, as he proved again on Monday night.
After just missing with a 94 mph heater low and away (though barely), Kershaw rolled that masterful bender toward the Cubs rookie at only 73 mph. A 21 mph difference from pitch to pitch? Is that even fair? No, it’s not, but neither is what Bryant did with the offering.
In a game stopped by lightning, it was fitting that The Natural would make his presence felt. Bryant’s opposite-field home run was the first hit off of Kershaw’s Uncle Charlie, and it was neither lucky nor cheap. The combination of power and timing is wondrous to behold.
And speaking of power, Bryant wasn’t done. You know how we’ve all been saying that this kid’s just going to go on a tear and start blasting balls into the bleachers with abandon? Well, this game against the Dodgers may have started it.
Adam Liberatore came on in relief of Kershaw in the 8th and managed to retire the first two batters he faced. But when the lefty brought a four-seamer middle-in, Bryant absolutely yoked it out to left-center. The ball got out so fast it left a vapor trail that had local conspiracy theorists whispering about chemtrails. I think I even heard a sonic boom.
Seriously, the guys in the bleachers are celebrating for a good two seconds before the camera cuts back to Bryant, who has only just rounded first in his home run trot. So if I’ve got this right, that’s one oppo homer off of Kershaw’s curve and one laser beam blast off of some other dude’s 94 mph fastball? I’m still learning about the baseballs, but I will make the assumption that that is good.
And here’s the thing about Bryant: he’s only going to get better. To put it in terms of Arthurian legend, it’s as though he’s playing right now with the sword he pulled from the stone that earned him his kingship. That’s all well and good, but it also means that Bryant hasn’t yet begun to swing the great Excalibur. Now if he can just avoid the whole war with his nephew/son…
I know a lot of smartypants baseball guys like to remind us that Bryant is actually older than Bryce Harper, it doesn’t change the fact that the Cubs rookie is still just that: a rookie. His path was different from Harper’s and we’ve got quite a while to see the best Bryant has to offer.
After a night like he just finished up, that’s an incredibly exciting possibility for Cubs fans, and an incredibly frightening one for opposing pitchers.