Bryant helped off field after twisting ankle catching pop-up

A rough season on the North Side may have just gotten a whole lot worse.

Chicago Cubs third baseman and reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant was forced to leave Wednesday’s game against the Washington Nationals in the fifth inning after twisting his right ankle on third base while catching a routine pop fly off the bat of Matt Wieters.

Bryant limped around in noticeable pain after the misstep, and, unable to put weight on the ankle, had to be helped off the field by manager Joe Maddon and the team’s trainer.

He was replaced at third base by Jeimer Candelario.

The Cubs are hoping this turns out to be little more than a minor issue for the 25-year-old Bryant, who’s their unquestioned franchise face and leader. He’s been a bright light in an otherwise turbulent 2017 season, and came into Wednesday’s game hitting .259/.393/.515 with a team-high 16 homers and 16 doubles, as well as a league-leading 53 walks.

Chicago is already missing a pair of veteran hitters in Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, who are both on the disabled list with wrist and hand injuries, respectively. The defending World Series champions entered play Wednesday with a disappointing 39-38 record, yet are still just one game back of first in the NL Central.

The Nationals were leading the Cubs 7-3 at the time of Bryant’s departure.

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