Bryant brings unmatched value with versatility

Cubs star's strong NL MVP Award case boosted by defensive prowess all over field

Bryant brings unmatched value with versatility

The Cubs' run to the National League Central crown began on April 4, with Kris Bryant at third base. It concluded with Chicago's first division title in eight years on September 15, with Bryant at third base. In between, Bryant played more than 300 innings in left field, nearly 100 more in right, 43 at first base, and he sprinkled in cameos at shortstop and center field.

That Bryant put up the offensive numbers he has -- including NL-best marks in runs and WAR -- while wearing so many gloves not only resulted in one of the most unique MVP Award-caliber seasons, but it may also foreshadow the way teams start utilizing a new wave of hybrid stars.

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Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. MLB.com reporters Carrie Muskat and Phil Rogers contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

100 Grand! Slam seals century mark for Cubs

100 Grand! Slam seals century mark for Cubs

PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs won their 100th game of the season Monday night the same way they checked off the first 99 -- with dominant starting pitching and an overpowering offensive attack. Javier Baez hit a grand slam and drove in a career-high six runs, Kyle Hendricks lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 1.99 and the Cubs rolled over the Pirates, 12-2, at PNC Park.

"It's not too often you get this much talent in one room on one team," said Kris Bryant, who celebrated the 100th win by driving in his 100th and 101st RBIs on a two-run homer. "We need to realize what we have here and be grateful for it. I couldn't have pictured a better first two years in the big leagues."

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryant blasts 2-run HR, passes 100 RBIs

Bryant blasts 2-run HR, passes 100 RBIs

PITTSBURGH -- Kris Bryant finished the 2015 season with 99 RBIs, which was good enough to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. In Monday's 12-2 win over the Pirates, Bryant reached the century mark, hitting his 39th home run, a two-run shot, to raise his season total to 101 RBIs with the Cubs. Give Chris Coghlan an assist.

Coghlan was the Cubs' leadoff man, while Bryant batted second. Coghlan was motivated.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon impressed with Hendricks' confidence

With 16th win, Cubs pitcher boasts league-leading 1.99 ERA

Maddon impressed with Hendricks' confidence

PITTSBURGH -- After the fourth inning, Cubs manager Joe Maddon walked over to Kyle Hendricks in the dugout at PNC Park. Hendricks thought the manager might be peeved because the pitcher didn't score on Kris Bryant's single that inning. Instead, Maddon wanted to know what Dartmouth's mascot was.

"He says, 'So, if I was to go to the bookstore at Dartmouth, what would I see as the nickname of the school?'" Hendricks said Monday after picking up his 16th win in the Cubs' 12-2 romp over the Pirates. "I said, 'Big Green,' and he walked away."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs leaning toward 11 pitchers in postseason

Cubs leaning toward 11 pitchers in postseason

PITTSBURGH -- Among the discussions the Cubs have had regarding the postseason roster is whether to carry 11 or 12 pitchers. Manager Joe Maddon said they are leaning toward having 11 pitchers and 14 position players, which was the breakdown last year in the postseason.

Maddon said they want to include a long man just in case a starter is knocked out early. That pitcher could be the starter who is odd man out in the postseason rotation, since the team is likely to use four. The Cubs, who clinched the National League Central, will open the NL Division Series on Oct. 7 at Wrigley Field against the winner of the Wild Card game.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs, fans give Ross an epic send-off

Retiring catcher homers in Wrigley finale, then gets surprise tribute

Cubs, fans give Ross an epic send-off

CHICAGO -- David Ross was ticked when Cubs manager Joe Maddon came to the mound with two outs in the seventh inning. Jon Lester was pitching well and had not given up a run against the Cardinals.

"Honestly, I'm like, 'Why is he taking Jon out?'" Ross said. "[Maddon] says, 'I've never done this before, but I'm taking you out of the game.' And then I pulled my mask down because everyone started telling me they loved me, and the emotions started, so I'm trying to get myself together before I walked off the field and then the fans started cheering again."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ross, Lester key Cubs' 99th win

Ross, Lester key Cubs' 99th win

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester won his National League-leading 19th game and Addison Russell notched his 94th RBI but Sunday night belonged to David Ross, who was greeted by standing ovations every at-bat, and responded with a solo home run, a few tears and a tip of his cap.

Ross and Lester combined to lead the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals to set a franchise record in home wins at Wrigley Field at 57. It also was Chicago's 99th win overall, tops in the Major Leagues.

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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Soler, Chapman among Cubs rocked by Fernandez's death

Soler, Chapman among Cubs rocked by Fernandez's death

CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Jose Fernandez when they were 11-12 years old and growing up in Cuba. They stayed in touch when both became big leaguers, and saw each other in the offseason in Miami. On Sunday, Soler woke up to the news that his friend was killed in a boating accident in Miami.

"It's sad. It's a great loss of such a great pitcher with such potential," Soler said. "I think all of us in baseball are feeling a heavy heart."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ross' homer adds style to final regular-season home game

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Ross' homer adds style to final regular-season home game

David Ross is a 39-year-old catcher with over 200 plate appearances this year. There aren't many of those, with only 23 players pulling it off in Major League history. 

Ross is also a career backup catcher and yet, thanks to his abilities behind the plate, in the clubhouse and away from the field, has been a fan favorite and consummate teammate wherever he's gone. There are no Baseball-Reference Play Index searches we can run for that, but pretty sure there are fewer.

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Zastryzny to start Thursday's bullpen day

Zastryzny to start Thursday's bullpen day

CHICAGO -- Cubs rookie Rob Zastryzny will make his first Major League start on Thursday in the club's series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park. The Cubs, who have clinched the No. 1 seed in the National League, want to give the rest of the rotation a breather heading into the postseason and had scheduled Thursday as a bullpen day. Zastryzny, 24, will get things started.

The lefty was a combined 10-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) for Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee this season. He has pitched in relief for the Cubs.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

One outing won't determine postseason rotation

Hammel allows six over 2 1/3 innings, but Maddon is looking at whole season

One outing won't determine postseason rotation

CHICAGO -- As much as Jason Hammel would like to make a postseason start, the right-hander knows he's already done something special with the Cubs this season.

Hammel, who took the loss on Saturday in an abbreviated start at Wrigley Field, may find himself as the odd man out when manager Joe Maddon sets the rotation for the National League Division Series, which begins Oct. 7. Hammel served up six runs over 2 1/3 innings in the Cubs' 10-4 loss to the Cardinals.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rough start creates too deep a hole for Cubs

Rough start creates too deep a hole for Cubs

CHICAGO -- Just when the Cardinals needed a win to keep pace in the National League Wild Card race, it was Alex Reyes' turn to pitch. Stephen Piscotty smacked a solo home run and Yadier Molina drove in four runs to back Reyes and power the Cardinals to a 10-4 victory on Saturday at Wrigley Field over the Cubs and slow their drive for 100 wins.

"They're a really good hitting ballclub," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Cardinals, who evened the season series at nine wins apiece with one game remaining. "They're very good offensively. They have a lot of veterans on the team. They're very formidable."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs secure home field for NLDS, NLCS

Club likely to face Mets, Giants or Cards in first round

Cubs secure home field for NLDS, NLCS

The Cubs have sat atop the National League standings for much of the season, and on Friday that status became official.

After Chicago's 5-0 victory over St. Louis in the afternoon at Wrigley Field, Washington's' 6-5, 11-inning loss at Pittsburgh that night guaranteed the Cubs home-field advantage in both the NL Division Series and NL Championship Series. The best the Nationals can do now is finish the regular season tied with the Cubs at 98-64, but Chicago owns the tiebreaker thanks to winning the season series, 5-2.

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Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arrieta spins gem; Cubs clinch NL's No. 1 seed

Arrieta spins gem; Cubs clinch NL's No. 1 seed

CHICAGO -- One week after clinching the National League Central title, the Cubs are focused on fine-tuning some things in preparation for the postseason. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have to beat their division rival if they hope to secure an NL Wild Card berth, and they were unable to do so on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Jake Arrieta struck out 10 over seven innings in the Cubs' 5-0 victory over the Cardinals, their 15th shutout of the season. It was Chicago's 98th win, the most in a single season since winning 98 in 1945, which was the last time the Cubs played in the World Series. Though they lost, the Cardinals remained a half-game behind the Giants, who lost to the Padres, for the second NL Wild Card spot.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Paired with Montero, Arrieta finds his groove

Cubs' ace walks only one, strikes out 10 to pick up 18th victory

Paired with Montero, Arrieta finds his groove

CHICAGO -- Cubs catcher Miguel Montero had a message for Jake Arrieta before the right-hander took the mound on Friday.

"I said, 'I need you to pick up the tempo, I need you to go,'" Montero said. "'Let me do the thinking, you do the throwing. I want you to keep on moving. I don't want you to sit there, because everybody falls asleep. I want you to keep on going. Don't give the hitters much time to think. I want you to just go.'"

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

'Grandpa Rossy' surprised with pregame tribute

Retiring catcher gets number from scoreboard, home plate and framed jersey

'Grandpa Rossy' surprised with pregame tribute

CHICAGO -- David Ross is the ringleader on the Cubs, and he prides himself on knowing everything that's going on, but the veteran catcher was totally surprised on Friday when teammates honored him pregame as part of a year-long retirement ceremony.

It was business as usual until 1 p.m. CT, when a video tribute began to play, featuring some of Ross' career highlights plus tributes from teammates Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, John Lackey and strength coach Tim Buss. Ross, 39, is retiring after this season, and he received a No. 3 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard, plus home plate from Jake Arrieta's no-hitter that he caught in April. The jersey Ross wore when he hit his 100th career home run also was framed.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs start meetings to plan postseason roster

Strop returns from DL; front office considers whether to keep 3 catchers

Cubs start meetings to plan postseason roster

CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon and the front office began preliminary meetings regarding the postseason roster, and the Cubs have created different scenarios depending on who they may play in the National League Division Series, which starts Oct. 7.

"We have plenty of time to make these decisions," general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday. "We'll keep revisiting the stuff over the course of the weekend, over the course of next week. We did it early enough that we could have those thoughts. Part of it, too, is talking about different ways we want to use guys in the last 10 games."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jimenez, Clifton honored with Minor League Awards

Jimenez, Clifton honored with Minor League Awards

CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler congratulated Eloy Jimenez on Friday for being named the organization's Minor Leauge Player of the Year. And Soler had a message for the 19-year-old outfielder.

"He congratulated me for for having a good season, and says he'll wait for me so we can play together," said Jimenez, Chicago's No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

5 days in 2016 that set Cubs on their path

5 days in 2016 that set Cubs on their path

CHICAGO -- How did the Cubs win the National League Central? Good pitching, defense, having two NL Most Valuable Player Award candidates in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and some wizardry by manager Joe Maddon certainly helped. Here are five moments during the season that contributed to the Cubs' first division title since 2008.

1. Dexter Fowler's return: Feb. 25 in Mesa, Ariz.
On Feb. 25, Maddon gathered the players on one of the practice fields at the Cubs' spring complex, saying he had a special announcement. Fowler, who had rejected a qualifying offer from the team in November and was rumored to be headed to the Orioles, suddenly appeared. Said Fowler: "My heart's here." His return meant the Cubs had their leadoff man back, and free-agent acquisition Jason Heyward could return to right field, where he was more comfortable.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs win 97th, inch closer to NL's No. 1 seed

Cubs win 97th, inch closer to NL's No. 1 seed

CHICAGO -- The march to 100 wins rolled steadily along for the Cubs.

Led by Miguel Montero's three hits and three RBIs, a three-game series sweep came without much difficulty as the Cubs claimed their 97th victory -- 9-2 over the Reds on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. Chicago is three shy of its first 100-win season since 1935 and has a magic number of 2 to clinch home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series.

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the Cubs on Wednesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Rogers: Cubs to go full tilt vs. Cardinals

Chicago has punched its postseason ticket and can help keep St. Louis out

Rogers: Cubs to go full tilt vs. Cardinals

CHICAGO -- Nothing personal. But the Cardinals should know that it doesn't matter that the Cubs clinched the National League Central title a week ago. There will be two teams trying their hardest to win games at Wrigley Field this weekend.

As desperate as the Cards are to pick up wins, the Cubs are only three victories away from 100 and would love to get there by Sunday night, even if it might seem like piling on.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lackey gearing for critical starts in October

Cubs righty works 7 solid innings to gain sweep of Reds

Lackey gearing for critical starts in October

CHICAGO -- Had it been a different situation, John Lackey would've trotted out to pitch the eighth inning of the Cubs' 9-2 win against the Reds on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

The veteran right-hander had only thrown 87 pitches after seven innings, and his stuff was even better than it was to start the game. After allowing two runs in the second, Lackey retired 15 of the next 16 batters he faced, including the last 14 in a row.

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Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Two Cubs aces up for Best Pitcher Award

Balloting open until Nov. 11 to reward game's elite

Two Cubs aces up for Best Pitcher Award

Some get it done with pure heat. Some dazzle with cartoonish curveballs. Some are so dialed in with command that they'd seemingly be able to paint the corners of the strike zone while blindfolded.

But when it comes to being an elite pitcher in the Major Leagues, only one thing really matters: getting hitters out.

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Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vote: Bryant up for Esurance Best Hitter

Balloting open until Nov. 11 to reward game's elite

Vote: Bryant up for Esurance Best Hitter

Babe Ruth once said of hitting, "All I can tell them is pick a good one and sock it."

Following that advice most impressively in 2016 are Jose Altuve of the Astros, Kris Bryant of the Cubs, Daniel Murphy of the Nationals, David Ortiz of the Red Sox and Mike Trout of the Angels. They have socked it so often, so hard, so productively and so memorably, that they are your five choices for Best Hitter in the Esurance MLB Awards.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester picks World Series title over Cy Young

Cubs lefty supports Hendricks for NL's best pitcher in 2016

Lester picks World Series title over Cy Young

CHICAGO -- If Cubs left-hander Jon Lester had a vote for the National League Cy Young Award, he wouldn't cast it for himself.

Lester, who leads the NL with 18 wins, said he'd vote for teammate Kyle Hendricks, who leads the Majors with a 2.06 ERA.

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Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs defeat Reds, clinch NLDS home field

Cubs defeat Reds, clinch NLDS home field

CHICAGO -- The postseason is two weeks away, and even though the National League Central-champion Cubs are waiting for other teams to get in, pitcher Jon Lester's foot is nowhere close to lifting off the gas. Not only did Lester pitch seven robust innings to pick up his NL-high 18th win, he provided the game's first run with a rocket of an RBI double in a 6-1 victory over the Reds on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Now 18-4 with a 2.36 ERA, Lester is 9-0 with a 1.46 ERA over his last 12 starts after he allowed one run, six hits, no walks, one hit batter and struck out five. According to MLB Network research, that makes him the third Cubs left-handed pitcher to win nine consecutive decisions, joining him with Jack Pfiester (10 in 1908-09) and Ken Holtzman (nine in 1967).

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Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Statcast of the Day: Ross rumbles home

39-year-old Cubs catcher scores from first on 107-mph double by Lester

Statcast of the Day: Ross rumbles home

CHICAGO -- By the end of it, David Ross was running on empty.

Actually, he was barely running at all after going first to home, non-stop, to score on a two-out double Jon Lester drilled to center field with an exit velocity of 107 mph in the second inning of the Cubs' 6-1 win against the Reds on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. As the 39-year-old catcher rounded third, he started to slow, breathe heavily and wonder whether he'd make it at all.

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Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.