How's this for some optimism?
Over the weekend, Kris Bryant hit two homers off Arizona pitching — a shot off Robbie Ray Friday night and then a blast to right-center Sunday afternoon off Luke Weaver.
The last time Bryant had multiple homers in a series was May 7-9, 2018, when he hit a pair of homers off Marlins pitching at Wrigley Field. That series was less than two weeks before he injured his left shoulder.
Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined to go just 2-for-13 in the series finale in Arizona, but there are plenty of encouraging recent signs from the two stars. Both hits went for extra bases — Bryant's homer and Rizzo added a double — and Bryant also drove in what proved to be a much-needed insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 15th inning after Ben Zobrist's game-winning double.
"Bryzzo" has been one of the main points of concern in a Cubs offense that has — overall — been off to a great start. They're supposed to be two of the key guys in the middle of that lineup and both are healthy (Bryant's shoulder was a major offseason storyline and Rizzo got off to a slow start last April due in part to a back injury), but they rank behind Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, Jason Heyward and David Bote in OPS to begin the season.
However, Bryant and Rizzo have quietly been very productive over the last 11 days, ever since the Cubs returned home from that quick road trip to Miami earlier this month. Here are the Cubs leaders in OPS over those 9 games:
Rizzo — 1.114
Almora — 1.032
Baez — 1.015
Bryant — .967
Bote — .944
Schwarber — .843
Heyward — .758
Contreras — .722
Zobrist — .426
Descalso — .398
That certainly helps explain why the Cubs are 6-3 in that stretch.
Bryant still hasn't gotten really hot like we've seen him in the past where he picks up a few multi-hit games in a week or goes 4-for-5 on a night with several extra-base hits. He's still only hitting .250 in this 11-day stretch.
But 6 extra-base hits in 9 games will help answer any questions about whether his left shoulder might still be affecting him and Bryant has consistently flashed his elite on-base skills. He has a .405 on-base percentage in those last 9 games and actually even has a .384 OBP since the Cubs' season-opening road trip.
He's also cut his strikeouts down, with only 4 whiffs against 7 walks in the last 9 games and his current 19 percent strikeout rate would represent a career high.
There's also reason for even more optimism moving forward, as Bryant has actually been rather unlucky this season. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is only .264, way down from his career .341 BABIP. He's also hitting the ball harder than he has since his 2016 MVP season, as his 88.8 mph exit velocity this season outpaces his mark from 2018 (85.8 mph) and 2017 (87.1).
Rizzo, meanwhile, ended that trip to Miami with a .159 batting average and .629 OPS. He woke up on Monday's off-day with a .214 average and .802 OPS, having collected twice as many extra-base hits (8) in that stretch than in the previous 17 games (4 extra-base hits).
Rizzo finished April last year with a .149 average and .448 OPS and then proceeded to hit .303/.393/.512 (.905 OPS) the rest of the way with more walks (66) than strikeouts (65).
After the offense "broke" down the stretch last year, the Cubs have one of the best lineups in the National League over this season's first month. Now imagine what they can do with "Bryzzo" returning to form.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.