Kris Bryant
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Video: Kris Bryant ties Ernie Banks’ home run record

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The Cubs bulldozed their way to a couple of home run records on Saturday, dominating the Pirates 14-1 to edge closer to the division lead. Powering that 14-run spread: two singles, a double, and four home runs, the latter of which bumped the team’s total to a single-season, franchise-record 237 in 2019.

Ben Zobrist took care of the first home run, teeing off against Pittsburgh rookie James Marvel in the second inning with a solo shot, his first of the year. Kris Bryant followed with a two-run blast in the fourth, while Nico Hoerner’s record-breaking three-run homer in the sixth and Victor Caratini‘s solo bomb in the seventh were the cherries on top of a decisive win.

For Bryant, Saturday’s home run felt a little more special than usual. He picked up a 1-1 fastball from Marvel and returned it to left field for his 29th homer of the season, bringing him to a career total of 136. It’s an impressive pace for the three-time All-Star; as he nears the conclusion of his fifth season in the majors, he’s on the verge of surpassing the franchise record set by Cubs Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks, who also belted 136 homers through his first five seasons with the club.

While the Cubs have been on an unbelievable tear this month — leading all NL teams with 68 runs scored in the first two weeks of September — it would still take some serious effort for them to lay claim to the home run title by season’s end. They currently rank second in the National League and seventh overall with 237 home runs, well below the NL-leading Dodgers (261) and league-leading Yankees (285).

Indians send down Clevinger, Plesac after virus blunder

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CLEVELAND — After hearing Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac explain their actions, the Cleveland Indians sent the pitchers to their alternate training site on Friday after the two broke team rules and Major League Baseball coronavirus protocol last weekend in Chicago.

Clevinger and Plesac drove to Detroit separately with their baseball equipment on Thursday for an “open forum” meeting at the team’s hotel before the Indians opened a series with the Tigers.

Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said following “the discussion” that he met with manager Terry Francona, general manager Mike Chernoff and decided it was best to option Plesac and Clevinger to the alternate training site instead of allowing them to rejoin the team.

“We had a chance to meet as small group and decided this would be the best path of action for us,” Antonetti said.

So before the opener, the Indians activated Clevinger and Plesac from the restricted list and optioned them to Lake County.

It’s a stunning slide for the right-handers and close friends, both considered important pieces for the Indians. There’s no indication when they may be back on Cleveland’s roster. They’ll have to be at Lake County for at least 10 days.

Last weekend, the pitchers broke the team’s code of conduct implemented during the pandemic by leaving the team hotel and having dinner and socializing with friends of Plesac’s and risking contracting the virus.

While the Indians got a car service to take Plesac back to Cleveland, Clevinger flew home with the team after not telling the Indians he had been out with his teammate.

Although both players have twice tested negative for COVID-19 this week, the Indians aren’t ready to have them back.

Earlier this week, pitcher Adam Plutko said he felt betrayed.

“They hurt us bad,” Plutko said after Cleveland’s lost 7-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. “They lied to us. They sat here in front of you guys and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on.”

Antonetti was asked if there are still hard feeling in the clubhouse toward the pair.

“We’re all a family,” Antonetti said. “We spend a lot of time together. Sometimes there are challenges in families you have to work through. I’d use that analogy as it applies here. There are things that have happened over the course of the last week that have been less than ideal and people have some thoughts and feelings about that.”

Both Clevinger and Plesac issued apologies in the days after their missteps. However, on Thursday, the 25-year-old Plesac posted a six-minute video on Instagram in which he acknowledged breaking team curfew but then aimed blame at the media, saying he and Clevinger were being inaccurately portrayed as “bad people.”

Antonetti said he watched the video.

“I’m not sure Zach was able to convey what he intended to convey in the video after having a chance to speak with him afterwards,” he said. “I think if he had a do-over, he may have said things a bit differently.”

Francona also felt Plesac could have chosen a better way to handle the aftermath.

“I was disappointed,” he said.