Cubs

Cubs-Yankees: Kyle Schwarber creates Derek Jeter moment with diving catch into Wrigley Field seats

Cubs-Yankees: Kyle Schwarber creates Derek Jeter moment with diving catch into Wrigley Field seats

For a guy who spent so much time and energy trying to make it as a big-league catcher – and missed almost the entire regular season last year after a brutal collision that destroyed his left knee – Kyle Schwarber still plays the outfield with the aggressiveness that made him a second-team All-Ohio linebacker in high school.

That’s why the Cubs have such an organizational man crush on Schwarber and never would have traded him to the New York Yankees for Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman last summer, viewing his infectious personality as an essential part of their clubhouse culture. It helped turn Schwarber into a World Series legend before his 24th birthday.

Schwarber created his own Derek Jeter moment late Sunday night against the Yankees at Wrigley Field, charging over from left, tracking the ball Chase Headley lifted into Bartman foul territory and tumbling headfirst over the brick wall and into the seats to make a spectacular catch in the 12th inning.   

For a moment, all you could see of Schwarber was the bottom of his Nike cleats and his glove thrown up in the air to show he had the ball. 

“It was amazing,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after a 5-4 loss that took 18 innings and ended on Monday morning. “That’s the type of team we are – we play balls to the wall, no matter what.”

Rizzo – who has made highlight-reel catches/Olympic balance-beam tributes on the tarp and wall on the other side of the ballpark – lifted his left arm and raised his index finger in the air. Center fielder Albert Almora Jr. hugged Schwarber from behind when they reached the dugout while Jason Heyward slapped him on the back. Even if Schwarber isn’t as smooth as those Gold Glove-caliber defenders, he doesn’t want to be viewed as the weak link and works hard at that part of his game.    

“If I’m going to make a mistake, it’s going to be an aggressive mistake, not a passive mistake,” Schwarber said. “That’s just the way I feel like baseball should be played. You’re not ever going to get yelled at if you’re going balls to the wall trying to make a play. 

“No one can second-guess you on that. So that’s what I do. I just want to go out there and play the game 100 percent every day and try and make every play possible and go from there.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Redemption Stories & Schwarber Leading Off

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Redemption Stories & Schwarber Leading Off

Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by the Cubs Postgame Live team of David Kaplan and David DeJesus to break down all the various redemption stories on the 2019 Cubs, ranging from Kris Bryant returning from an injury-plagued campaign to Tyler Chatwood becoming a legitimate weapon out of the bullpen (1:00). Then, the guys discuss how well Kyle Schwarber is performing out of the leadoff spot over the last week (11:45).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Kyle Schwarber finding his niche in Cubs' leadoff spot: 'He’s really morphed into the hitter we thought he could be'

Kyle Schwarber finding his niche in Cubs' leadoff spot: 'He’s really morphed into the hitter we thought he could be'

After two seasons alternating table setters atop their lineup, the Cubs may finally have found a consistent leadoff hitter in Kyle Schwarber.

“It’s one of those things you have to believe it to see it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s game against the Reds. “And sometimes there’s other folks that have to see it to believe it. I just thought it was the right time.”

Schwarber started his 11th-straight game on Friday, hitting leadoff in the last nine games of that stretch. Unlike his abysmal tenure leading off in 2017, though, Schwarber is getting into a groove hitting first for the Cubs this season.

In 2017, Schwarber hit leadoff 37 times; not only did he slash a woeful .190/.312/.381 with seven home runs, but he walked 24 times compared to 48 strikeouts. The Cubs went with a leadoff-man by committee approach the rest of the season, as 10 other players hit leadoff at least once.

Schwarber has flipped the script as a leadoff hitter this season. Although the sample size is small, he’s slashing .265/.372/.618, (34 at-bats) with three home runs and seven walks compared to 12 strikeouts.

“Again, I liked it back then, I did. However, he did not react to it well in that moment,” Maddon said. “But if you look at his overall abilities as they stand right now, for me, that’s the perfect spot for him, especially in our lineup.

“He’s made some adjustments recently, he’s more mature as a hitter, he’s understanding it better. All of those things are involved. I like it; I could’ve done it earlier this year, but he really wasn’t doing what he’s doing right now earlier this year.

“I think this last three weeks or so, he’s really morphed into the hitter we thought he could be.”

Schwarber certainly has been trending upwards since the calendar flipped to May. In April, he slashed .211/.282/.338 with 25 strikeouts and seven walks. While he’s hitting .224 this month, he holds a stellar .389 OBP (.837 OPS), walking 19 times compared to 21 strikeouts.

“There’s things that he’s doing right now that are permitting him to be more consistent,” Maddon said. “Like the other day, that first at-bat walk against [Max] Scherzer in what was such a big at-bat. There was like four pitches all over the place and he didn’t swing.”

Schwarber walked in both of his at-bats against Scherzer on May 17 on a combined 10 pitches. He took four pitches out of the zone the first time around and four more the second at-bat. On the latter instance, the only strikes came on foul balls.

All of this is not to say that the days of Schwarber hitting for power are over. He has four home runs in May, three of which have come in the leadoff spot. And while RBI chances aren’t as prevalent for leadoff hitters, Maddon mentioned how Schwarber has room to grow.

“To this point, he hasn’t really been the RBI guy that you might envision. He’s been more the table setter,” he said. “I think as he learns his craft better, of course he can drive in runs more consistently.

"He’s on the verge of doing that right now. The benefit has been for him to set the table more than cleaning it up to this point, but I think he has the abilities to do both.”

Following the Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Reds on Friday, Maddon reiterated his confidence in his latest No. 1 hitter. Schwarber went 1-for-4 with a home run, a walk and a strikeout.

“I like his at-bats right now in general,” he said. “That’s kind of why I did what I did, because I think that it’s become a more mature at-bat and the more the stays up there, the more comfortable he’s going to get.”

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