Kyle Schwarber gives Cubs one-day respite from road woes just ahead of showdown in St. Louis
“We control our own destiny,” Schwarber said after leading the Cubs to an 11-4 victory in Milwaukee with a grand slam and a three-run homer.
MILWAUKEE — Never mind. False alarm.
Cubs Twitter can breathe easy now that all is right with the team after a big day for Kyle Schwarber and an 11-4 victory Sunday against the rival Brewers — on the road, no less.
No more worries. Nothing to see here. All systems go for October.
And if you buy that, the Cubs have a deal for you on a big, shiny arch down by the river with a stunning view of East St. Louis.
Stop by for the open house Tuesday in St. Louis when things get real again for the National League’s most underachieving team of 2019.
‘‘I wouldn’t say it’s been a weird season,’’ said the heretofore slumping Schwarber, who slugged a monster grand slam into the upper deck in right field in the second inning at Miller Park, then slapped a three-run poke to left in the fourth. ‘‘There’s just been ups and downs.’’
The Cubs were able to lick a few wounds after losing the first two games of the series on late blown leads. But nothing suggested the roller coaster is ready to level off, especially with three games left on this nine-game trip.
Even with a one-day respite from their miserable road travails, the splurge highlighted another trend manager Joe Maddon points to when he suggests the need to get better at ‘‘moving the baseball.’’
Ten of the Cubs’ 11 runs Sunday — and 19 of 20 in their last four games — came on home runs for a team that ranks sixth in the majors with exactly 50 percent of their runs on long balls. Not that there’s a big problem with that when two and three runners are on base (i.e., runners in scoring position).
‘‘I don’t want to be just home-run-reliant,’’ said Maddon, who lauded the two singles and the walk that preceded Schwarber’s first homer and the walk and single that preceded Victor Caratini’s three-run shot in the sixth. ‘‘I don’t want to play that game; that’s the 2019 game. I want us to be more than that.
‘‘I want us to play baseball. I don’t want us to do this new-wave, analytical baseball that just tries to put the ball in the seats all the time. I want baseball properly played, and I want us to be fundamentally sound. And that includes offense, too.’’
The Cubs also need to fix a bullpen that has been especially creaky in the last week, never mind the most extreme split in the majors between their home and road records. That includes 20 losses in their last 28 road games but the second-best record in the NL at home.
‘‘It’s strange,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ‘‘It’s obviously something that this group, this era of Cubs baseball, hasn’t experienced. We obviously have two more months left. This year, it hasn’t [gone well yet]. But we can start writing our own script tomorrow.’’
Rizzo said that late Saturday, before the Cubs’ victory Sunday put them back in a first-place tie with the Cardinals ahead of their series at the stadium where their nine-series road skid began.
‘‘The part of the conversation I don’t think has gotten enough attention is that other teams have gotten better,’’ Maddon said.
That’s not exactly true. The bottom of the NL Central has improved, but the Brewers have regressed since winning the division last season.
And a Cardinals team that has averaged 85.7 victories in three seasons since their last playoff appearance is on pace for 86 again this season.
Maybe the rest of the division and most of the NL have caught up with the Cubs. Maybe it’s the Cubs who have meandered back to the pack.
Regardless, they have 57 games to fight about it.
‘‘We control our own destiny,’’ Schwarber said. ‘‘We’ve played some really good baseball, even though some things didn’t go our way. We’ve just got to keep carrying that throughout the rest of the season.’’