Frank Schwindel. Again.
Interim manager Andy Green joked on Friday that as long as Schwindel kept homering, the Cubs would keep winning. So far, he’s not wrong.
The Cubs extended their winning streak to six games Sunday, beating the Pirates 11-8. That matches their longest winning streak of the season, set May 23-29 against the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds.
Matt Duffy homered twice for the first time and hit his first career grand slam, but he was still upstaged by Schwindel.
“Frank’s just got this thing on repeat right now,” Green said. “We’ll ride it as long as we can and not ask questions about it.”
Starter Zach Davies allowed six runs in four-plus innings, but Duffy’s back-to-back homers with Jason Heyward in the second inning and his third-inning slam erased that deficit.
The bullpen allowed two more runs — one unearned — and headed into the seventh inning, the Cubs trailed 8-7.
That, of course, only set the stage for Schwindel’s latest round of heroics. Robinson Chirinos and Rafael Ortega drew walks, and Alfonso Rivas’ pinch-hit single loaded the bases with two outs for Schwindel.
Schwindel’s go-ahead grand slam just reached the basket in left-center, but it traveled far enough to give the Cubs a three-run lead.
“It felt really good off the bat,” Schwindel said. “It wasn’t one of my best swings, but I got just enough of it.”
Schwindel’s basket shot was the fifth lead change of the game. It was Schwindel’s 11th home run of the season. He has homered in six of his last seven games, a stretch in which Schwindel has a 1.502 OPS.
“It’s been ridiculous,” Green said of Schwindel’s recent run. “That’s a huge hit, a huge swing.”
These last six games have been the most locked in he has ever felt, Schwindel said. He has had stretches in the past when he has gotten into some good grooves, but nothing at this level.
“I’ve had a couple of good weeks like this,” Schwindel said. “But obviously being at the big-league level [and] winning games with the Cubs, there’s nothing better than this.”
He hasn’t taken to superstitions during the hot streak, so no repeating the same pregame meal or anything like that, but Schwindel admitted that he was a little nervous going into the game because he was wearing a new jersey. The old one had its buttons ripped off the day before by his teammates after he dove into first on a walk-off single.
Schwindel said he was able to walk around Chicago without being recognized a few days ago, but after Saturday’s walk-off single, he was getting stopped for pictures and autographs. He might need a disguise after this one.
Green said this victory was not one of the team’s prettiest. He wanted more strikes out of his bullpen — the group issued six walks after taking over for Davies — but his relievers still held the Pirates to two runs in five innings.
One of those runs was earned, for only the second earned run the bullpen has allowed in the last six games.
This Cubs season has been dictated more by the long losing streaks than the winning stretches, but Green said the team’s recent victories are a product of how the group has been playing since early August, even if they weren’t getting wins.
“I think it just shows a lot of character,” Schwindel said of the Cubs’ recent run. “It just really shows a lot about the guys deep down. We want to compete, and we want to be good. We’re not going to just coast through the rest of the year.”