San Francisco Chronicle
Belt, Longoria HRs provide the icing on Kris Bryant’s Wrigley homecoming.
Bryant honored by crowd, then teammates take over
CHICAGO — Friday’s pregame activities at Wrigley Field belonged to Kris Bryant, as well they should. The new Giants outfielder won a Rookie of the Year and MVP honors with the Cubs and helped end the franchise’s long World Series drought in 2016, and he got a rapturous welcome from fans in his first appearance since getting traded July 30.
The rest of the game belonged to his teammates, especially reliable run producer LaMonte Wade Jr., whose bloop single in the sixth tied the game, and Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, who provided two-run homers the next inning in the Giants’ 6-1 victory. At 91-50, the Giants stayed 21⁄2 games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West, with Los Angeles beating San Diego later Friday night.
Belt, wearing an improvised “C” made of electrical tape on his chest after jokingly declar
ing himself team captain on the trip from Denver, also doubled and walked twice Friday, and Longoria drove in the Giants’ final run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
“I can’t complain about where where I am right now,” said Longoria, who spent much of the season on the IL. “I feel like I’m making decent decisions, I’m still swinging in the zone, not chasing a whole lot.”
More fun stuff from the majors’ best team: The Giants turned in a beauty of a double play in the seventh, with shortstop Brandon Crawford ranging up the middle for a bouncer by Patrick Wisdom and shoveling the ball sideways at second baseman Tommy La Stella. La Stella caught the ball barehanded at the bag and threw to first to retire Wisdom.
“Off the bat, you think that ball’s getting through and it’s going to be a grind of an inning, then Craw obviously gobbles that up and makes a great pick and then a perfect feed,” Kapler said. “What stands out most to me is how calm and focused Tommy was on catching that ball barehanded.”
Bryant was greeted by dozens of media in the Giants dugout, with local TV cameras lined up along the railing an hour before he was scheduled to speak. Flashing a wide smile, he talked for nearly 20 minutes, reiterating how special his time in Chicago was and how much he appreciated everyone with the Cubs, including the stadium workers. Bryant and his wife, Jessica, demonstrated that in a sweet fashion: They provided hundreds of cookies to the ushers, security personnel and concessionaires with a message thanking everyone for a wonderful seven years.
“It’s easy to thank your hitting coach or your teammates or the people writing your checks, but the people behind the scenes here really make this place go,” Bryant said. “Just a little something I could send their way to show them just how much me and my family appreciate them.”
Right before the game, the Cubs ran a tribute video highlighting Bryant’s achievements with the Cubs. Bryant wiped away tears as he watched from behind home plate. As part of the ceremony, the team then presented him with the No. 17 from the scoreboard, his uniform number in Chicago. That number was everywhere at Wrigley Field on Friday, with fans of all ages wearing Bryant jerseys, including many kids, one of whom proudly held up a sign announcing he was skipping school to see Bryant.
“I kind of knew it would be like this, but it kind of got the best of me,” Bryant said. “It was kind of hard to play baseball after that, for sure, but I really appreciated it. When I first started my career, I don’t know if I could have ever dreamed of having that type of reception.”
Bryant was 0-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and two strikeouts in the game, his first as a visiting player at Wrigley. While he spent most of his career in the ballpark, he was a little confused when the Giants got off their bus. “We came through the right-field gate and I’ve never even been on that side of the concourse,” he said. “I got lost. I was trying to play it off, but I had no clue what I was doing.”
San Francisco used a bullpen game Friday, with Dominic Leone making his second appearance as the opener this week and working two scoreless innings. The Cubs’ run came on Frank Schwindel’s homer off Jarlín García in the fourth. Eight Giants pitchers held Chicago to two hits.
“You’re always going to need each guy to pick up for the reliever that left the game in front of them,” Kapler said. “It probably sounds simple, but it really boils down to preparation and readiness. And I think this bullpen is a team-first group.”
The Giants have won seven of their past eight games despite employing just three healthy starters and using bullpen games two out of every five outings.