Cubs

Kyle Schwarber has become larger than life during Cubs postseason run

schwarbers-legend-continues-to-grow-slide.png

Kyle Schwarber has become larger than life during Cubs postseason run

Kyle Schwarber had his Babe Ruth moment and Mickey Mantle moment all in one play Tuesday night.

The Cubs rookie did his best impression of the New York Yankees legends with his mammoth home run in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

It may not have been 565 feet like Mantle's shot in 1953, but Schwarber's homer landed on top of the scoreboard in right field, settling beneath the Budweiser sign that illuminates that area of the baseball universe.

[RELATED - Chemistry matters for Cubs team taking the playoffs by storm]

He didn't aim his bat toward the bleachers like Babe Ruth did from the same batter's box in the 1932 World Series, but Schwarber did call his shot with Cubs centerfielder Dexter Fowler.

"We were out in center field and [Cubs manager Joe Maddon] was making a pitching change and I was just joking around," Schwarber said. "I said, 'I'm going to hit a home run off this guy,' and [Fowler was] like, 'Do it.' There you go."

The Cubs verified Schwarber's ball on top of the right-field scoreboard and will keep it up there as a badge of honor/memento/intimidation tactic through the rest of the postseason, even encasing it in glass to protect it from the elements:

 

 

 

 

What's even more incredible about Schwarber's home run was that it came off a left-hander. In the regular season, Schwarber hit just .143 with a .481 OPS and only two homers off southpaws.

But in the playoffs, none of that matters.

[SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

That shot was Schwarber's third homer of the postseason and he's hitting .538 with a 1.831 OPS in five playoff games.

The legend of the 22-year-old rookie continues to grow, even after he finished the season hitting just .177 with a .655 OPS in the final 30 games.

Schwarber has gotten hot at just the right time for the Cubs offense, looking more like a seasoned veteran than a guy who was seen as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014.

It's quite a journey for a kid who was in Arizona for instructional ball around this time last year.

[MORE: Cubs become baseball's biggest party and best story]

"It's been a crazy ride, and I'm blessed to be here," Schwarber said. "You know, it could have been a totally different story if I was on a different team.

"Coming into this organization and them believing in me all the way from our front office to our ownership to our coaches. And then when I did come up with our players, they made it so easy on me to come up and just do my job, and that's play baseball.

"It could have been 'Rookie this, rookie that, you do that.' It wasn't any of that. It was, 'You're here to help us win, let's go.'"

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

kamka_may_21.jpg
USA TODAY

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs

Uncanny!

Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

cubs-pod-521.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Doug Glanville break down a solid 4-2 road trip for the Cubs. Plus, who would you rather have long-term: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below. Apple Podcasts listeners can subscribe at the show page.