The Cubs expect the impossible from Kyle Schwarber, envisioning him as their Babe Ruth when he played at Indiana University, watching his towering home runs as a rookie during the 2015 playoffs and witnessing a medical miracle, raking in the World Series some six months after major surgery on his left knee.
Never bet against Schwarber is part of The Cubs Way. Manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t overreact to a downturn this early in the season and pull the plug on a leadoff experiment with Schwarber hitting .196 on May 2.
“He’s scary, man,” Maddon said, calling the shot during Tuesday’s pregame media session at Wrigley Field. “Listen, every time he comes up, I think something good’s going to happen. Every time. Every time.”
That faith paid off during an 8-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Schwarber hammering an 82-mph Jeremy Hellickson pitch into the right-field bleachers for the go-ahead, three-run homer in the fourth inning and giving a jolt to a team that views him as an emotional leader.
Schwarber hadn’t homered in two weeks, watching his OPS tumble 190 points to .652, leading to what-have-you-done-for-me-lately questions about the lineup.
“I feel like I’m right there,” Schwarber promised before the game. “I just got to stick with my process. I’m not going to be outcome-based where you just focus on a number. That’s why it’s called average. It’s an accumulation of something over the course of time.
“It’s a game of millimeters. I feel like I’m putting some good swings on some balls and I’m just fouling them right back.
“I’m just not getting the results I want. Once I make that adjustment – get that millimeter where I’m missing the ball – it’s going to be a good feeling.”
The Cubs are now 14-12 and still in first place without clicking on all cylinders. The crowd chanted “JAV-Y! JAV-Y” on a night where Javier Baez went 4-for-4 and fell a double short of hitting for the cycle. Kris Bryant tripled and homered after a pregame ceremony where he posed with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and the 2016 National League MVP award. Carl Edwards Jr., Hector Rondon and Wade Davis covered the final four innings and combined have now allowed one earned run through 35 appearances.
Two months removed from his 24th birthday, Schwarber is a legend who hadn’t played in a big-league game in May until Monday night, and hasn’t come close to completing a full season in The Show yet.
“We all kind of forget that,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said. “It’s been such a small sample size from him obviously being hurt last year and not playing a lot. I think that has a lot to do with where he’s at right now. You take a full year off of baseball. Obviously, we saw what he did in the World Series, and I think that’s just more kind of adrenaline.
“Now with the grind of every day, he’s seeing how he’s getting pitched to. He has to make adjustments, and that’s the name of this game. You have the BATS (video) system, and every team has that, so they have a scouting report going in, what they’re going to try to do.
“He’ll be fine. We know the talent. We all know what he can do. It’s just a matter of getting going. We got a lot of guys like that right now. I feel like we’re kind of on the cusp of getting guys going, both on the pitching side and on the offensive side.”
Add this STATS Inc. bullet point to the resume: Schwarber (97 games) is now the fastest Cub to reach 20 career home runs since 1913.
“That’s cool,” Schwarber said. “But I still want to focus on this year. I still want to focus on having good at-bats. I want to focus on winning. And I want to focus on getting back to where we want to be – which is being the last team standing at the end of the year.”