The Chicago Cubs have suffered their fair share of bodily injuries this season.
They took a blow to their heart and soul Sunday.
Instead of unbridled joy after a 16-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates — giving the Cubs a series sweep with three games of double-digit run scoring — there was concern for first baseman and team leader Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo suffered a right-ankle sprain in the top of the third inning at when he charged in to field a bunt by Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams.
As he turned his ankle, Rizzo took a large divot from the grass with his spikes. He managed to throw wide to first base before collapsing to the ground in pain. After getting attention from the athletic trainers for several minutes, Rizzo got up, but he needed help exiting the field from a trainer and teammate Jason Heyward.
The Cubs said x-rays taken at the park were negative but that Rizzo would undergo an MRI Monday morning to determine the severity of the injury and how much time he might miss.
Just how important Rizzo is to the team was evident as soon as the injury occurred. Wrigley Field became eerily silent, and the Cubs watched as a 3-0 lead quickly evaporated into a 5-3 deficit. But they quickly regrouped in the bottom of the inning with 5 runs and went on to a rout.
“This whole day was just so weird, it was really weird out there after it happened,” said third baseman Kris Bryant, Rizzo’s buddy. “Everybody was just kind of quiet. I have never really experienced that here. And that just shows how much everybody loves him and why he’s so important here. He’s always on the field, too.
“It’s hard when you see him go down because he’s always out there, and I know he wants to be out there playing for us. You know he’s going to do everything he can to do that.
“I was sitting there next to him and was like, ‘I’ve never seen him like this.’ You never want to see that.”
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged the deflating effect injuries like that can have. But he also said they can be “galvanizing,” both within a game and long term.
“When your better guys go down a little bit like that, the other folks realize, ‘Hey, let’s go,’ ” Maddon said. “That’s part of the mindset, too. You can’t permit that to drag you down. We didn’t.
“Listen, from the fans’ perspective, it is what it is. You’re going to be devastated. We are, too, to a certain extent. Then you’ve got to move it forward.”
Maddon then ticked off the players the Cubs had missed or have been missing because of injury or other reasons this season: Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Ben Zobrist and Bryant, to say nothing of closer Craig Kimbrel.
“We’re used to this in a sense, and the depth has got to pick us up,” Maddon said.
With the victory, Cubs (81-68) pulled to within 2 games of the St. Louis Cardinals (83-66) for the top spot in the National League Central. They scored 47 runs in the three-game series, beating the Pirates 17-8 Friday and 14-1 Saturday.
The offense picked up starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who fell apart after the Rizzo injury and lasted just 2⅓ innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs.
The Cubs scored in every inning they batted but the second. Bryant hit 2 home runs, giving him 31 for the season and making him just the third Cubs third baseman in history with at least 30 homers in multiple seasons. He joined Aramis Ramirez and Hall of Famer Ron Santo. Bryant’s 138 career homers are a franchise record for a player over his first five major-league seasons. Bryant surpassed Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who had 136.
Also hitting homers for the Cubs were Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber (team-leading 36th) and Jonathan Lucroy.
“Just thinking about what (Banks) did here and what he meant to this team, he’s got a statue out front,” Bryant said. “That gives me goose bumps when I’m mentioned in the same sentence as that guy. It’s really an honor, and I just hope I’m making him proud.”