Ready for battle with Cubs in World Series, Kyle Schwarber has another chance to add to his legend

Ready for battle with Cubs in World Series, Kyle Schwarber has another chance to add to his legend

Before the Cubs hosted the Indians in the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field Sunday night, a young fan skirted across the upper deck concourse wearing a Kyle Schwarber jersey and a black sponge taped to the base of his chin.

That's how much kids want to be like "America's large adult son," as Deadspin has started calling Schwarber.

There's something about Schwarber and his blue-collar Midwest style and lovable frat dude aura that has endeared the Cubs slugger to Chicago and, over the last week, to the nation as well as his legend grows.

That "something" will be back in the Cubs lineup for Game 6 Tuesday night (and Game 7 Wednesday night if the Cubs can pull out a win) in Cleveland, not far from where Schwarber grew up in Middletown, Ohio.

Despite a stunning return to the active roster for the World Series, Schwarber was not cleared to play the outfield and as such, led to only one plate appearance by "America's large adult son."

Now, with the designated hitter returning as an option, the Cubs will get the boost Schwarber provided when he went 3-for-7 with a double, two RBI, a run and a pair of walks in the first two games in Cleveland.

And that's from a guy nobody even thought would step on a field in 2016 after a horrendous knee injury on April 7.

“His inner drive – you can’t measure that,” outfielder Chris Coghlan said. “It’s not a skill that you can measure and people can quantify by watching him. It’s just an inner desire. And not everybody has that. That’s what makes him special.”

Schwarber's mere presence is an emotional boost to a Cubs offense that has struggled mightily to find consistency over the last two playoff series.

The Cubs have been shut out in four of the last nine postseason games and managed just five runs in the three World Series games at Wrigley Field over the weekend.

"Any bat like that can play," Dexter Fowler said. "A bat like that - impact bat - is definitely awesome to get back in the lineup."

It's funny that this is even such a major storyline. Everybody's excited about a guy who's had 15 plate appearances since spring training?

But that's the magic surrounding Schwarber right now, and his teammates believe.

"He's back and I'm sure he's chomping at the bit," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's going to have big at-bats Tuesday and he's going to be ready for it and he's got all of our confidence behind him.

"It'll be nice, especially [in Progressive Field], where it's a shorter porch to right. It's supposed to be a little warmer there - 76 [degrees]? Oh my gosh."

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Relegated to cheerleading duties for much of the historic weekend at Wrigley, Schwarber kept his anxiety at bay by taking swings throughout the game, running to the indoor batting cage as many as five times to ensure he'd be ready if that big pinch-hitting opportunity came up.

During the Cubs' pressure-packed, tense 3-2 win in Game 5, Schwarber said he was bouncing off the walls in the dugout and clubhouse. When Jason Heyward scaled the right field wall to make a ridiculous catch on a foul pop-up, Schwarber said he exploded.

For now, the big left-handed bat is just focusing on the off-day, projecting a sense of calm while standing at his locker and fielding questions from reporters.

But underneath the surface, Schwarber is relishing the chance to be able to help his team on the biggest stage, to go to war with those guys in the clubhouse after a year of adversity.

"Yeah, [there's anxiety there]," he said. "I missed the whole year. So for me to be able to step out there with them again and go to battle with them, it's gonna be fun."

Schwarber - who already is the Cubs' franchise leader in postseason homers (5) - dismisses any notion of pressure.

"I just think that once it comes to game time, once you're in between the lines, you're in between the lines," he said. "There ain't no guessing. It's go out there and battle."

And as for the facial hair?

"I always joke," Schwarber said, "if I shave it off, nobody would recognize me anymore."

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

With their postseason hopes fading by the day and the Cubs needing him most, Yu Darvish delivered on Sunday.

And yet, the game ended in a far-too familiar way for the Cubs: with a 3-2 loss, the Cubs’ fifth-straight one-run defeat — and third since Thursday when they were tied or leading in the ninth inning or later.

“If you just play back the tape, it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Also, the games against Cincinnati. For the last six, this is really wash and repeat. Of course it’s frustrating."

Darvish was extremely emotional postgame, as evidenced by a mud stain spread across his locker resulting from an anger-laced throw of his cleat. He pitched well — 8 1/3 innings, three earned runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks — only running into trouble in the ninth.

“I’m so frustrated, you can see it, right?” he said, looking back at his locker. “We have to win, especially today, but we lost.”

The 33-year-old right-hander was rolling heading into the ninth, which started off with pinch-hit triple by Jose Martinez that hit off Albert Almora Jr.’s glove, despite a valiant diving effort.

“It sucks that we couldn’t win that game,” Almora said. “I really wanted to make that play there. Can’t catch them all, but I tried.”

For what it’s worth, Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch Sunday because he was unavailable, though Maddon said he would’ve stuck with Darvish even if his closer was available.

"I was happy at that point, but right now everything just….There’s no words right now," Darvish said.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What matters is that the Cubs lost another game that they seemed to have in their grasp, only to see it slip away late. They're now eliminated from NL Central contention, and their elimination number in the Wild Card race is three.

Even Maddon struggled to explain the series, one where the Cubs played quite well but only saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “You look at it, how did that all happen? How did we lose all those four games? They were just one runner better than us every night and they were really evenly matched. That’s all I will concede.”

Although Darvish admitted he feels responsible for Sunday’s loss, Maddon spoke highly of the right-hander, even comparing how he's pitched to what Jake Arrieta did during his tenure with the Cubs. 

“I saw Jake pitch really well and win a Cy Young, but this is equivalent of all of that,” he said. “The stuff, command of his stuff. [Darvish] absolutely deserved a better fate.”

Whether you think that Maddon was being too hyperbolic there or not, there’s no doubting that Darvish looked excellent for majority of his outing on Sunday. Baseball is a game of inches, something the Cubs experienced firsthand this weekend.

“They got us. They got us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit for that, but we did not leave anything on the field, man.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull discuss the Cardinals sweep, Yu Darvish taking the loss so hard, and what to look for over the final six games of the year.

01:00 - Reaction to being swept by the Cards

03:30 - Darvish taking the loss really hard

05:30 - This is the Yu Darvish Cubs fans thought they were getting when he signed with the Cubs

07:00 - Almora's miscue in the 9th inning of the loss

08:00 - It feels like the end of an era

12:00 - Is this the end of an era for the Cubs?

16:00 - Surprised Rizzo was available on the field for the entire Cardinals series?

20:00 - There is no one thing you can look to that didn't work this season

22:00 - What do you want to see over the final six games?

25:00 - Seeing a cornerstone being helped off the field for a second Sunday in a row

29:00 - How much will we see the injured guys on the field?

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast