NEW YORK — Maybe the Mets’ Taijuan Walker could have used a little more sticky stuff in the first inning Tuesday, and maybe Kris Bryant wouldn’t have been hit by that pitch on his hand?
Go down that road of thinking if you want, but the one thing that was certain as baseball and the Cubs hit the halfway mark in June Tuesday is nobody can seem to get off the damn injury carousel that is spinning as fast in 2021 as it has in the game in recent memory — especially for the Cubs.
Bryant, who’s on the brink of a fourth All-Star selection, left the game one inning after being hit on the right hand. And he isn’t expected to be in the lineup Wednesday against Mets ace Jacob deGrom after the Cubs lost again Tuesday to the Mets, 3-2, in the second game of a four-game series.
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But Bryant and the Cubs appeared to have averted serious injury, with x-ray results coming back negative Tuesday night and the club calling the injury to the right hand a bruise.
"The trainers were checking on him and said he couldn’t really grip the bat,” manager David Ross said. “We’re obviously going to err on the side of caution when it comes to that kind of stuff and get some tests done and make sure he’s OK.
“I’m usually a wait-and-see kind of guy,” Ross said of Bryant’s status for Wednesday. “But he’s a guy that plays every single day, so an extra day’s not going to kill him.”
The Cubs, who remain tied with the Brewers for first place in the National League Central despite a second straight loss to the Mets at CitiField, already have 10 players on the injured list after getting outfielders Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick back in recent days.
And shortstop Javy Báez returned from a two-day thumb injury Tuesday to deliver a two-run homer in the third for a brief Cubs lead.
Then just about the time Báez was figuring out he was back to “no pain” in the thumb, down goes another All-Star core player from the lineup.
The story of the Cubs’ season 67 games in.
“That’s not in my mind at the time,” Ross said. “You’re just thinking, ‘I hope KB’s OK. Where’d it get him? How bad’s it going to be?’ You assume it’s going to be bad when you talk about the small body parts, the fingers and the hand.
“But I don’t go big picture on that.”
Certainly not after nearly half a season of the same game of attrition playing out for a team that has found enough unexpected, productive depth on its roster to keep a tenuous hold on the division lead — Tuesday marking the ninth time in 14 losses since the end of May that they fell one run short.
Adbert Alzolay, who had become the Cubs’ best starting pitcher by the time he exited his start last week with a blister that put him on the IL, said Tuesday he expects to return during the Cubs’ upcoming five-game homestand that opens Friday.
Starter Trevor Williams (appendectomy) has a checkup Thursday that could help determine his timeline for a return. And early and productive fan-favorite Matt Duffy (back) is on tap to start a minor-league rehab assignment in the next few days.
It doesn’t make Bryant’s hand any better. Or make the Cubs feel any better about how it might impact their star.
“You’re just hoping for the best when something like that happens,” Ross said. “And I think we may be OK.”