On Sept. 5 in Milwaukee, the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber homered on what manager Joe Maddon called the lefty’s best swing of the season.
It was compact. It was quiet. It was all about the lightning-fast hands of a baseball player, not the powerhouse body of a middle linebacker.
Schwarber did it again Sunday in a 6-1 victory over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. He turned on a Carlos Rodon fastball in the second inning and launched it 444 feet into the bleachers in right. It was a thing of beauty, not to mention the first of Schwarber’s 26 long balls this season to come against a left-hander.
A similar swing an inning later produced a ringing double that one-hopped the wall, drove in a run, knocked Rodon from the game and helped the Cubs lock up the season series with the Sox 4-2 and lower their magic number to five.
“I was able to slow things down there and made a couple of good swings today and some good decisions on pitches,” he said. “So it was a good day.”
It was a good two days, actually. Between Saturday and Sunday, he was 4-for-5 and walked three times. It was a shot in the arm the Cubs needed after Schwarber missed nine games heading into this series with a sore back. Sunday was his first time in the field after two days as DH.
“In a perverse way, this injury might be actually helping him,” Maddon said, “because he’s really not trying to get his body so much involved as he’s trying to get his hands involved, which is a better way to do it.”
Schwarber wouldn’t even have been in the lineup had Kris Bryant not been given a day off to rest his balky left shoulder. But as the Cubs head back to Wrigley Field for a seven-game homestand to end the regular season, Schwarber is staring at loads of opportunity. The Pirates will throw right-handed starters in all four games, and the Cardinals are lined up with three righties.
It’s an exciting scenario, especially after a game in which left-handed hitters Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Schwarber all had multiple hits. Switch hitter Ian Happ tossed in a double from the left side in the ninth inning, the Cubs’ 10th hit — and fourth extra-base hit — of the day from that side of the plate.
“We’ve just got to keep that good feeling rolling into these last couple of games, whatever we’ve got,” Schwarber said.
The Cubs haven’t flashed a great deal of power this season. They haven’t been as adept at using the whole field, working counts and battling with two strikes as Maddon would’ve liked. The manager has been disappointed at times by how slow certain young hitters — Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Happ and Schwarber, too — have been to make adjustments.
There simply isn’t enough time left for everything to click offensively.
“I don’t think you’re going to see anything a whole lot different,” Maddon conceded before the game. “I think that would be inappropriate to think that.
“I thought this year we’d see a lot of the younger hitters really ascend to the point where you’d start seeing the realization of potential, and it still hasn’t occurred to that point. [But] in spite of not being the offensive team that I thought we would, we’re still in a pretty good position.”
After a few hours of baseball and a good deal of quality hitting, that position looked even brighter.
Pirates at Cubs
Monday:Cole Hamels (4-1, 2.42) vs. Jameson Taillon (13-9, 3.24), 7:05 p.m., NBCSCH, 670-AM.
Tuesday:Mike Montgomery (5-5, 3.75) vs. Chris Archer (2-3, 4.86), 7:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM.
Wednesday:Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.11) vs. Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.01), 7:05 p.m., NBCSCH, 670-AM.
Thursday:Jon Lester (17-6, 3.43) vs. Trevor Williams (14-9, 3.04), 7:05 p.m., NBCSCH, 670-AM.