Watch out, Bears. At this rate, Chicago might become a Frank Schwindel town.
A three-run ninth inning capped by Schwindel’s dive into first base on an infield single gave the Cubs a 7-6 walk-off victory Saturday against the Pirates, stretching their winning streak to five.
Schwindel’s slide was so close that a video review gave the fans at Wrigley a chance to sing “Go, Cubs, Go” twice — first in the aftermath of the play, then again after the umpires ruled him safe officially.
“That was the loudest I’ve heard it here,” Schwindel said. “It was a tough spot coming in here with those guys being so loved, and it had to be tough for fans, losing their favorite players. [It’s] a bunch of guys they haven’t really heard of to help fill out, but today was unbelievable.”
Schwindel also homered in the fifth inning, the fifth home run in his last six games and his 10th of the season. The 450-foot blast was the first homer to hit the left-field scoreboard since Justin Turner and Willson Contreras did it in Game 4 of the 2017 National League Championship Series.
He was activated by the Cubs the day Anthony Rizzo was traded to the Yankees, and Schwindel’s recent play could be painting some of the Cubs’ 2022 picture.
Right now, Schwindel said he’s just enjoying the experience and not focusing on anything too far into the future. Still, how much he’s ingratiating himself to Cubs fans and people in the organization can’t be overlooked.
“He’s been great; there’s really no other way to slice it,” interim manager Andy Green said. “He’s done everything you could possibly want a baseball player to do. Now we just want to see it on repeat for a long time.”
Coming over from the American League, Schwindel had not played much first base at the major-league level, but that’s an aspect of his game that he’s working on.
“I’ve always wanted to be more than just a hitter,” Schwindel said. “It’s important to put the time in to get the extra defensive work. We’ve been working a lot on the pre-pitch setup, ground balls and fielding, and paying more mind to doing the little things right. I’m getting more comfortable there every day.”
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks could not make it past the fifth inning and showed signs of trouble early. He allowed a lot of hard contact — including a solo home run by Yoshi Tsutsugo in the first inning that hit the right-field scoreboard — and had only one strikeout.
In the fifth, a leadoff walk to Phillip Evans and a single by Cole Tucker set the table for the first of the five runs Hendricks allowed. Hendricks then issued back-to-back walks to Jacob Stallings and Colin Moran and hit Anthony Alford on the elbow before being pulled.
Hendricks has thrown 160⅔ innings — fifth-most in baseball — but he is not chalking up any recent struggles to fatigue.
“Just gotta get back to executing better,” Hendricks said. “Everything feels good. I’m just not executing. Timing gets off and just throwing way too many bad pitches.”
The Cubs scored their other runs in the fourth inning. Matt Duffy’s single and groundouts by Jason Heyward and Sergio Alcantara drove in three runs after Ian Happ (double), Contreras (walk) and Patrick Wisdom (walk) loaded the bases to start the inning.
The team’s recent winning streak is a product of the way they were playing in early August, even as they were losing big, Green said.
“They never took at-bats off; they fought to the end of every game,” he said. “Nobody noticed it because we’d lose 13-5 in some of those games, but we started to get a feel for the group as a whole that the fight was inside of them.
“You’re getting to appreciate that fight because it’s translating a little more frequently into wins.”