ST. LOUIS — Jason Heyward owns three Gold Gloves, gets on base 35 percent of the time and allows Cubs manager Joe Maddon to hit Ben Zobrist behind Anthony Rizzo. Even if the offensive numbers never match the external expectations for a $184 million player, Heyward’s presence matters.
"That’s the butterfly effect," Maddon said before Heyward’s return to the lineup in Tuesday’s 12-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "When they flutter their wings, something else occurs that’s not noticeable to the naked eye.
"It happens in Russia. It happens in '11/22/63.' So there are all these different moments that occur that we don’t really recognize because we only see the obvious."
Heyward’s absence didn’t fully explain the offensive regression or a three-game losing streak, and it might not have changed a 1-0 loss to San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner on "Sunday Night Baseball."
But after watching Friday’s jaw-dropping catch and headfirst crash into the AT&T Park wall, general manager Jed Hoyer admitted it felt like the Cubs dodged a bullet. Heyward somehow walked away with only a bruised right side at a time when the Cubs couldn’t afford to lose another corner outfielder.
"He’s not hitting .300, so obviously people think that he’s not playing well, which is so far from the truth," Maddon said. "He makes a great impact just by his presence as a great defender. He gets on base a lot. And then he permits us to reorganize the batting order."
Heyward went 0-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts and moved a runner over to third base with a groundball to the right side of the infield during that six-run first inning. He’s now hitting .218 with one home run through 171 plate appearances and a sub-.600 OPS.
Heyward had been feeling like he was getting his timing down again — and working through a nagging wrist issue — so we’ll see what the extra rest meant for the butterfly effect.
"Sometimes the game’s going to get you," Heyward said. "You say 'turn it around,' but we’re doing OK. Right now, we’re not by any means complacent, but it’s a part of the season. You’re going to go through ups and downs. You’re going to go through stretches where the other team just has a better night than you do."