Kyle Schwarber’s first career grand slam came at a perfect time.
The Cubs slugger crushed an opposite field grand slam in the seventh inning to power the Cubs past the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-3, on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Schwarber’s grand slam was his ninth home run of the season.
"Obviously, it was nice to come up in that spot and be able to help out," Schwarber said. "It’s kind of a sigh of relief because I want to go up there and I want to help my team. For me to do that today was great."
In a season that hasn't gone Schwarber's way so far, his confidence is still intact, especially after a big win against a division-rival.
"You’ve just got to stay the course," Schwarber said. "You’ve got to know that you’re here for a reason. That’s half the battle is knowing that you’re a good player, and more than half of this game is mental.
"I always try to stay as positive and mentally strong as I can be because I know how crazy this game is. It can put you at your highest highs and your lowest lows, and you’ve just got to be able to stay the same person."
Prior to Saturday's game, Joe Maddon moved the struggling Schwarber to the ninth spot after the Cubs manager "hated" what he saw on Friday hitting seventh.
Maddon personally called Schwarber after Friday's game to explain that he wanted the 24-year-old to hit last, essentially becoming another leadoff man with Jon Lester batting eighth. It worked on Saturday, as Schwarber delivered in the clutch to help give his team a win.
"He told me his reason, and I was like, 'all right,'" Schwarber said. "I’m going with it. Whatever the skipper does, I’m going to follow it. We’ve got his back, he’s got our back. It’s all a process. It worked out today."
Maddon plans to keep Schwarber in the ninth spot for Sunday's series finale.
Lester, who started the game on extra day's rest, struggled with his command early, allowing two walks and a single to the first three batters of the game, which loaded the bases. Cardinals' Jose Martinez followed with a single, which scored two.
Again in the second, the Cubs ace allowed the first to batters to reach base with back-to-back singles, but the Cubs left the inning unscathed.
Javier Baez cut the Cubs' deficit in half in the third when he belted with a solo homer to center field, his ninth of the season. Yadier Molina answered and got the Cardinals' run back when he homered in the sixth inning to give the opposing team a 3-1 lead.
In the seventh, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras kicked things off with back-to-back singles of their own. After a Javier Baez strike out, Jon Jay was beamed, loading the bases for Schwarber, who went deep on the first pitch he saw to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead and secure the win.
Schwarber has received his fair share of criticism because of his struggles, but "it's big" that he has the support of his teammates.
"It’s easy to kick a guy to the curb, seeing the numbers like that. It has been a big support system with the fans, to the players, to our manager, to our coaching staff, front office, everything," Schwarber said. "It’s really big. You can definitely go home and feel even worse if they didn’t treat me the way that they did, but they’re all here to pick us up, and that’s kind of how our team is.
"We’re going to pick each other up."
When Schwarber was heading in the dugout following his grand slam, Maddon said his hand hurt after Schwarber put some extra juice into his high-five.
"Yeah, I gave him a little extra," Schwarber said. "It was an exciting moment, it was a big moment. To put us ahead in that spot and to be able to hold those guys off and come out with a win was big."
Schwarber said that he had actually been wanting to hit a ball hard to the opposite field. He did just that. Now, he wants to take the momentum and ride with it.
"Hopefully, this was a good sign today," Schwarber said. "I’m just going to keep with the course, working with (John Mallee) and everything like that. I’m feeling good at the plate. Let’s keep it going."