Cubs notes: Bryant cuts down K's in clutch

Lester's monthly trend rolls into June; Montero makes voice heard

Cubs notes: Bryant cuts down K's in clutch

CHICAGO -- There are strikeouts and there are badly timed strikeouts. Kris Bryant is a good example.

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The Cubs rookie third baseman entered Saturday having struck out three times in 23 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and two outs (13 percent), and was batting .412 in those situations. In his other at-bats, Bryant has struck out 32 percent of the time (64 K's in 200 plate appearances).

"I totally disagree with the concept that all strikeouts are created equally," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

"Two outs, nobody on, no big deal [if you strike out]," Maddon said, listing when strikeouts are good vs. bad. "Two outs, runner on first, no big deal. Runner on third, nobody out, big deal. Runner on second, nobody out, big deal."

Entering Saturday, Bryant ranked among the top five in the National League in strikeouts, but he also led the Cubs with a .391 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Jon Lester has been on a roller-coaster ride. He was 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four April starts, then went 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA in six May outings. This month, he's 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA in two games.

"To have a couple bad outings doesn't bother me in the least," Maddon said of the lefty, who starts Sunday in the series finale against the Reds.

In his last outing Tuesday against the Tigers, Lester gave up five runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. That was his shortest outing since Opening Day, April 5, when he faced the Cardinals and took the loss.

"I don't want him to feel like he got beat up [by the Tigers], because he didn't," Maddon said. "It wasn't like he was making awful pitches, because he wasn't. He may not have been on top of his game, but I thought his stuff was pretty good early on in that game."

• Catcher Miguel Montero isn't afraid to let the Cubs pitchers know how he feels. Maddon is OK with that.

Montero's three-run shot

"He's opinionated, he knows what he thinks, and I like that," Maddon said. "I think everybody appreciates that about him. He's been playing really well. I know everybody looks at batting average, but figure out his slugging and his on-base and it's pretty darn impressive, and the power is there to back it up. He's been playing really well."

Montero was batting .243 in 50 games, but he had a .366 on-base percentage and .438 slugging percentage.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.