CHICAGO - For whatever reason, Reds means go for the Cubs' youngest superstar.
That's why many weren't surprised when Kris Bryant was able to find his groove after a bit of a rough month of September when Cincinnati paid a visit to Wrigley Field this week. The third baseman, who is hitting just .221 for the month of September, gave himself a boost with four hits in the final two games of the series against the Reds.
Bryant's quick outburst included a two-run homer in Wednesday's win over the Reds at Wrigley Field. Incredibly it was the 10th homer of the season against the division rival which he's also batting .388 against with 24 RBIs. To be fair the Reds are early in the stages of a major rebuilding and are among the worst teams in the major but Bryant could use the help in the race for Most Valuable Player.
With a .295 batting average along with 38 homers and 99 RBIs the defending Rookie of the Year has a significant chance to upgrade his hardware this offseason. He's in direct competition with his teammate Anthony Rizzo who has a .292 average with 31 homers and 104 RBIs this season.
Joe Maddon even said earlier in the year he wished both could share the award - the "Bryzzo" - though that has happened just once in National League history. Keith Hernandez of the Cardinals and Willie Stargell of the Pirates shared the award in 1979.
Other candidates in the National League figure to be Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (.294, 39 homers, 128 RBIs), Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (.347, 25 homers, 104 RBI) and Dodgers shortstop Corey Seeger (.317, 25 homers, 69 RBIs).
While excited to continue improving before the start of the playoffs, Bryant admits to not being overly consumed by the race for the MVP.
"Honestly I don't watch the TV or follow what anybody else is doing but certainly you hear it from the other guys in here which is kind of funny," said Bryant of the award. "I go home, I watch Netflix, I don't watch any sports. This is the time of the year where you kinda have to go home, relax, don't worry about what anybody else is doing.
"Just go out and play your game."
Meanwhile Jon Lester used his outing against the Reds to strengthen his quest for another jewel MLB award - the Cy Young. On Tuesday night he allowed just six hits and a run while striking out five in improving his record to 18-4 on the season.
What might spark his chances for the award is his run since August 1st when he's arguably been the best pitchers in the majors. He's 7-0 with a 1.15 ERA during his nine starts and has allowed just eight earned runs while striking out 59 batters compared to just ten walks.
Like Bryant he'll have competition in his own clubhouse from Kyle Hendricks, who is 15-8 with a National League-low 2.06 ERA. Others in the mix include Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.82 ERA, 267 strikeouts), Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (1.81 ERA, 45 saves), and Giants starter Johnny Cueto (17-5, 2.79 ERA).