After Kyle Ryan ‘froze,' Cubs have his back


Even before the ninth inning Monday, it was a strange night at Wrigley Field.

The temperature at first pitch was 33 degrees colder than it was the night before and early on, it looked like the Cubs were going to cruise to a victory as the hottest team in baseball jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the team with the worst record in baseball.

But it wound up being a night of missed opportunities — the Cubs couldn't build a bigger lead on the 10 walks they drew on the evening and then watched as the bullpen melted down in the top of the ninth.

Closer Pedro Strop allowed all four batters he faced to reach base, including walking in the tying run. Kyle Ryan — who has emerged as a go-to guy in the Cubs bullpen — was brought in to escape the jam and promptly gave up a hard grounder that drove in another run (though a David Bote diving stop prevented further damage).

The next play was the head-scratcher, as Ryan made a nice leaping snare of Martin Prado's ground ball, saw Neil Walker breaking for home from third base, stared at him, looked like he was going to make a throw to catcher Willson Contreras and then inexplicably went to first base, allowing the Marlins to plate an insurance run. 

The Cubs got out of the inning on that play after Anthony Rizzo fired over to third to get the other runner, but the damage was done. When Kris Bryant homered with one out in the bottom of the ninth, that only underscored the mental error.

"I froze," Ryan said bluntly as he stood at his locker and faced the music after the game. "I knew the whole situation and I just froze. Checked [the runner], saw him, ran through my mind and froze. 

"It was a double play, but still — run scored, KB hit a homer, could've been a tie game. So yeah, I was a little upset. Actually, I was very upset."

Give Ryan credit for how he owned the difficult moment, but the result was still the same: the Cubs' seven-game winning streak had come to an end and on a night where the Cardinals won, meaning St. Louis regains control of first place — a position the Cubs had for all of about 25 hours.

"As a competitor, of course you're gonna be pretty ticked off when you're not making the play you think you should make," Rizzo said. "We all have his back. He's been really good for us since he's been here and he's been a great teammate and a great guy in the clubhouse. I'm sure Joe [Maddon] will put him right back in there tomorrow and we have all the confidence in the world in him."

Look, you can't just sit there and say everything would've played out exactly like it did if Ryan had simply gone home. There's no guarantee the Cubs turn a double play, which means the run could've still scored somehow. There's also no guarantee Bryant comes up and hits a ball onto Waveland. 

But all of that obviously could've happened and anytime you give up a run on a mental mistake, it's understandably tough to swallow. 

That being said, this happened on May 6 and against the Miami Marlins. It's not like it cost the Cubs the season, even in a year where so much emphasis has been put on cashing in on every opportunity. 

"I think I've made my fair share of not getting outs where I think you can get the outs," said Cole Hamels, who started Monday night's game. "Sometimes the game can speed up on you a few times. We all do it. And I think this is great because this is a big lesson to sort of learn early in a season. 

"He's gonna be a big part of this team as we go forward and especially when it gets to September and obviously into October-type baseball, he's probably going to go back to that and revert and know that this was a good lesson for him. 

"I think he's going to be in a situation where he's going to be able to come through and that's what you do — you take the lessons that baseball gives you and you have to make the best of it."

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