CLEVELAND — Maybe it’s the smokestacks. Maybe it’s the lake water. Or maybe it’s something in the rain that seems to follow the Cubs to this ballpark.
Whatever it is about the place, Kyle Schwarber returned Tuesday to Cleveland and found his Hall of Fame career path right where he left it 18 months ago.
Whether he carries it with him when the Cubs leave Progressive Field for home later in the week, he delivered two powerful reminders — at least for one night — about how he once captivated a national baseball audience and earned all those comparisons to Ruth, Gehrig and Bunyan.
Home runs in his first two at-bats staked the Cubs to an early lead and set the tone for a 10-3 victory against the Indians in their first trip to Cleveland since their victory in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series on another rainy night.
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‘‘I guess I just hit well here, I don’t know,’’ said Schwarber, whose star dimmed as a leadoff man in 2017 almost as quickly as it burned its brightest when his improbable World Series comeback from a 6½-month knee injury launched him to widespread fame as the Cubs won their first championship in 108 years.
Schwarber went from going 7-for-17 in the 2016 World Series to the minors by the end of June after a .171 start to last season.
‘‘This game can throw a lot of wrenches at you,’’ he said. ‘‘That was the biggest thing from last year. The year before, you’re on top of the world. Then last year, it’s not where you want to be. It’s always a good reminder just to be able to take it a day at a time and just have that attitude stay the same.’’
For all the effort and force of will it took for Schwarber to return to the field on the biggest stage — after barely a week of actual practice — it was what happened last season that might yet make the difference in his career.
‘‘To me, that was his sophomore year,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘The sophomore year is when guys don’t adjust back to what the [opponent is] trying to do to you based on what they’re seeing. That was the sophomore slump.
‘‘I’m seeing the adjustments [by Schwarber] right now.’’
Schwarber is hitting .302 with six homers and 16 RBI this season. The last two numbers rank second on the team to Javy Baez. And he has a 1.048 OPS.
In seven games in Cleveland in his career, he’s 15-for-30 with three homers, six RBI and a 1.445 OPS.
After spending last weekend in Denver hitting the ball up the middle and to the opposite field, Schwarber lined a hanging changeup from Josh Tomlin over the right-field wall in the second inning for the first run of the game.
‘‘It’s been a good start to the season so far,’’ said Schwarber, who refuses to get ahead of himself. ‘‘Just stay the course. I’m not going to try to do anything extraordinary.’’
Such as leap tall buildings in a single bound? Or impersonate Babe Ruth for the rest of his career?
‘‘It was crazy,’’ Schwarber said of the public mystique and media hype that followed him throughout his four-game run of heroics as the Cubs’ designated hitter during the World Series games in Cleveland.
‘‘I’m not saying that I expected myself to do that, but I just wanted to go out there and be competitive, and that’s what happened. The guys that were in the clubhouse at that time definitely helped me a lot throughout the way.
‘‘And that was the big motivator there when I was on the field: I was doing it for those guys, not myself.’’