CLEVELAND — Kyle Schwarber played in his first major league baseball game in 6 1/2 months on Tuesday night.
In Game 1 of the World Series.
It was storybook stuff, indeed, for the Cubs postseason star of 2015 who hit five playoff homers as a rookie before suffering what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury in the third game of this season. After striking out against Corey Kluber on a 3-2 pitch his first time up, Schwarber came within inches of sixth career postseason homer his second time up, hitting a double off the top of the right-center field wall.
And with that, Schwarber became the first position player to get a hit in a postseason game without getting one during the regular season.
“Nerves? Yeah, they were there,’’ Schwarber said. “After that first at-bat everything slowed down.
“Overall, a good day.’’
Aside from a 6-0 Cubs loss, it was an impressive personal achievement on a whirlwind day for Schwarber, considering Kluber set a World Series record by striking out eight Cubs in the first three innings. Not to mention Schwarber’s mammoth layoff.
“It was unbelievable to take six months off and have a great walk off [Andrew] Miller and a double off [Corey] Kluber,’’Bryant said.
“It’s almost not human.’’
Questions about Schwarber’s health were answered by doctors and by the way Schwarber ran the bases in two tuneup games in the Arizona Fall League. With that, manager Joe Maddon said the decision to activate him and bat him fifth was “easy.”
“The biggest thing was doctors said he could do this,’’ Maddon said.
“With him, anything is possible. He’s shown that.”
Schwarber said he first thought being ready for the World Series might happen “about six days ago.”
“It probably hasn’t hit me,” he said before the game. “Probably once I hit that line a lot of emotions will come pouring out and I’ll probably cry at some point today.’’
After the game he said the tears came close during the National Anthem.
Left-hander Rob Zastryzny was left off the roster to make room.
Maddon wasn’t ruling out the possibility of Schwarber doing more than being a pinch hitter when the series shifts to Chicago without the DH.
“Let’s watch him the next two nights and see how he moves,” Maddon said.
Maddon didn’t think the speed of the game would be too quick for Schwarber, and he was right.
“If you make a mistake against him the way the win’s blowing, it could go far to right field,’’ Maddon said.
“I have a lot of faith in the guy. “He’s definitely not afraid and he definitely feels he’s ready.’’
Indians manager Terry Francona was convinced Schwarber was “ready.” When Schwarber came up with a runner on first and no outs in the seventh, he pulled Kluber in favor of ALCS MVP left-hander Miller. Schwarber laid off some close pitches and coaxed a walk.
“In Arizona I tracked probably 1,300 pitches off a pitching machine,” Schwarber said. “I tried setting it to the nastiest setting I could to get a really sharp break and train my eyes all over again.”