Before he singled and scored in the sixth inning Tuesday, and long before his two-out game-winning homer in the seventh, rookie Kyle Schwarber walked.
“I thought the walk was the key to his night,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Schwarber was the key to the Cubs’ night in a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.
Until he drew the walk against Anthony DeSclafani, Schwarber was in a 1-for-16 funk with eight strikeouts, including one in the first inning.
“I chased a pitch my first at-bat,” said Schwarber, who reached and scored every time he went to the plate after the strikeout Tuesday. “I just needed to tell myself to slow everything down. I’ve been seeing the ball well, but I’ve just been struggling. And I was putting a little pressure on myself.
“So I just had to go back and just stick to the basics with my approach and be a little patient and that walk really helped.”
Right-hander Burke Badenhop, who got two quick outs to start the seventh, had a 1.69 ERA since the All-Star break and hadn’t allowed a home run since April, before taking the mound with a 4-3 lead Tuesday night.
But with two out, Dexter Fowler singled to right, and Schwarber followed with a go-ahead shot to left-center on a 3-2 pitch.
“Just trying to go up there and put up a quality at-bat,” Schwarber said, “and I got a good result.”
The Reds didn’t have another batter reach base in the game after that, with Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (25th save) combining to retire the final six batters – including a fiery confrontation between Strop and Brandon Phillips to end the seventh.
After striking out Phillips on a big swing to end the inning, Strop exulted and then shouted toward Phillips – who dropped his bat, smiled and gave Strop a thumbs-up.
“That was cool,” said Strop, who got fired up when he saw how hard Phillips swung early in the at-bat.
“He was getting on his knees, swinging hard like he was trying to hit the ball out of the park,” Strop said. “So then I was like, `Uh-oh, all right, I’m going to throw as hard as I can, too, to try to get you out.’ And then after the strikeout, I got a little excited in the situation of the game, and he just smiled and gave me the thumb-up.
“It was nothing personal. He’s a great player and he’s been around so long.
“It was nothing planned, it just came out. It was a pretty competitive at-bat.”
Part of it was the excitement of September, he said.
“All these games are like playoff-type games, and you just get excited,” Strop said.