PHILADELPHIA – As usual, most of these industrious Cubs were back in the video room Saturday, hard at work looking for answers that only deep study of game film might reveal.
Was the base wet? Did first-base coach Brandon Hyde trip Kyle Schwarber as he made his turn? Did Schwarber actually eat any dirt when he went down face-first during what was supposed to be an uneventful home run trot during the second victory in the Cubs’ doubleheader sweep in Philadelphia Friday night?
“We were watching it again today with him,” said Hyde, laughing at one of the trademark moments for this young, upstart Cubs contender as it closes in on a first playoff berth in seven years. “I keep getting calls from people asking if I tripped him.”
Schwarber, who was drafted only 15 months ago, had just hit his man-sized second home run in as many pitches seen in the game Friday night when he took a bad step across the bag at first and became a kid again.
“It was hilarious,” teammate Kris Bryant said. “It’s just like we’re so young and we don’t really care about anything. Seeing him do that – go big, first pitch, hitting a homer and then first pitch in his second at-bat. … We’re so young. It’s just what we do.”
Face-plants and all.
Maybe that’s how all these rookies keep doing all these big things for these fast-maturing contenders.
They just keep swinging the bat, playing the game and not bothering to notice where they’re going.
“They’re not letting anything get to them,” Hyde said, “and they’re really enjoying it, which makes it a lot of fun.”
Schwarber, playing in just his 52nd big-league game Saturday, was at it again – giving the Cubs an early lead with a moon-shot homer on another first-pitch swing, against Jerad Eickhoff.
That’s three in two nights, 16 this season – with 42 RBIs. His pair of homers Friday already marked his third multi-homer game.
“This game is hard, and these guys are performing every night,” Hyde said. “It’s phenomenal.”
It’s the whole rookie crew. Addison Russell, the second baseman in April, turned shortstop in August, started hitting home runs in recent weeks – including a huge, three-run shot in a series-opening statement victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis on Monday.
Bryant, the rookie third baseman, who has played more outfield in the last week, delivered four RBIs in the doubleheader Friday – breaking the Cubs’ rookie record of 86. When he doubled home another run in Saturday’s loss, he reached 91 in 131 games.
Bryant also hit his 24th homer of the season Friday, catching the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson for the rookie lead this season — just five days after he hit the longest home run by a major-leaguer this season, off the new left-field video board at Wrigley Field. Pederson had 10 this season before Bryant hit his first.
Combined, five rookies this season (including Matt Szczur and Jorge Soler) have combined to hit 61 home runs — breaking a 49-year-old record for a crop of Cubs rookies.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but it’s pretty remarkable,” second-year starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks said of all the rookie firepower helping the Cubs get into playoff position down the stretch. “You would think maybe they’d take a step back here or there, but they just keep hitting.
Bryant (April 17), Russell (April 21) and Schwarber (June 16) all made their big-league debuts this year.
Hyde spent nine seasons with the prospect-rich Miami Marlins’ organization before joining the Cubs.
He said what this class of Cubs rookies is doing “surpasses” anything he had in Miami. “The volume of them, at one time,” he said. “These guys are so talented that it’s scary.”
“I’m sure the league will figure us out, and we’ll struggle here,” Bryant said.
As long as they keep getting up when they fall.
“They’re continuing to play the game like they’ve been playing it their entire life,” Hyde said, “like they’re not even noticing it. Which is really cool.”
Maddon ranked Schwarber’s fall, cool rise to his feet and sheepish safe signal as he resumed running “right up there, man,” with the top Cub highlights this season.
“The way he played it off and the guys in the dugout. All that stuff counts,” he said. “That’s the kind of stuff that really adds the salt and pper on the night. It’s good stuff. And then he palyed it that way — it was outstanding.”