In fairness to Kyle Schwarber, the only position he could play that would make him a good fit for the current Red Sox roster is second base, and it's not like anyone saw that need coming on July 30.
The Red Sox acquired Schwarber hoping he could learn first base, not realizing that incumbent Bobby Dalbec was about to transform into Jim Thome. When Dalbec started hitting bombs in early August and then COVID began marching across the Red Sox roster like General Sherman, Schwarber found himself sharing left field and DH responsibilities with J.D. Martinez.
A return to health of center fielder Kiké Hernández made the issue of Schwarber's fit a front-burner topic, and in Tuesday's loss to the Mariners, it bit the Red Sox when Schwarber booted a relatively routine two-out grounder behind first base that eventually led to the game-winning three-run homer.
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Redemption came quickly. On Wednesday night, Schwarber was summoned to pinch hit with two outs and the bases loaded vs. Mariners closer Drew Steckenrider in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game. He responded with a bases-clearing double that ended an 0-for-17 slump and lifted the Red Sox to one of their most important victories of the season.
And thus did Schwarber illustrate that though he may be an imperfect match, the more opportunities he gets to hit in big spots, the better.
"You have to be able to turn the page," Schwarber said. "I can't be reliving that moment over and over again. I have to be able to look back at it, learn from it, move on, and then today was a whole brand new day. It's definitely a spot that me as a baseball player, I definitely want to be in every time. Those are the spots you want to be in, to drive in runs to put your team in front."
As the ramshackle Red Sox drive towards the finish like some kind of dune buggy/hearse hybrid out of Fury Road, it's important to note that there will be a key role for Schwarber to play, even if we're a little hazy on his position. He's simply too professional of a hitter in the midst of what has become too inconsistent an offense to say that his bat won't play somewhere.
"The biggest thing I was thinking about was putting the ball in play," Schwarber said. "Bases loaded, tie ballgame, put pressure on the defense, that's kind of the biggest thing there. The oh-for-whatever, obviously those are tough times, but you just have to trust your process in the cage, trust your process on the field and in batting practice and things like that. When you get in a spot like that, those are spots you want to be in as a baseball player and you want to be able to come through for your team."
If the Red Sox are going to hold off at least three out of the Blue Jays, Yankees, Mariners, and A's in the wild card race, it's going to take efforts like Wednesday's, when Cora did not hesitate to pinch hit left-hander Travis Shaw for the red-hot Dalbec, who had earlier launched the game-tying homer. After Shaw walked, he then summoned Schwarber to hit for catcher Kevin Plawecki, and Schwarber delivered.
"We have a full bench and we're going to use everybody," Cora said. "Those two guys right there were the right guys in that situation."
Get used to it. Schwarber may not be a perfect fit for every second of every game, but it's all about delivering in the moments that matter.