Cubs

Kyle Schwarber livid after controversial game-ending call: 'I was a little hot'

Kyle Schwarber livid after controversial game-ending call: 'I was a little hot'

Kyle Schwarber thought he had just worked a walk and instead watched as third base umpire Gabe Morales rung him up on a check swing.

The Cubs left fielder reacted instantly, slamming his helmet on the ground while pointing and shouting at Morales and starting down the third base line.

Teammates Javy Baez and Jason Heyward intervened and manager Joe Maddon went out to plead his case to Morales and the rest of the crew, but the damage was done — the Cubs had lost the game and Schwarber was officially ejected by two umpires.

Here's the full sequence:

"I was a little hot," Schwarber admitted after the game. "I've been able to calm down now. I wasn't the happiest person in the world."

Schwarber had worked the at-bat to a full count against Angels closer Cody Allen before the check swing on the curveball in the dirt. 

The Cubs had runners on second and third and two outs as they trailed by a run, attempting to complete a comeback that saw them score a run earlier in the ninth inning and a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth.

"I took a look at [the replay] and if I didn't go the first time, I didn't go the second time," Schwarber said, referencing an earlier check-swing call in the at-bat where Morales said he did not go around. "If you're not 100 percent sure, you can't call it. Obviously I was frustrated. Who's not gonna be frustrated when they end the game like that and you're that close to sniffing out a run? Frustrating. I just don't think that it was a good call.

"I just didn't like the way it ended. Grinding out an at-bat against that guy. It's a big situation right there and worked him and got in a hitter's count and spit some pitches and then you gotta battle against him. I thought I didn't go and he thought I did."

Replays showed a very, very close call that probably could've gone either way. Had Morales said Schwarber did not go around, the Angels would've been mighty upset. The way this played out, the Cubs were upset.

Maddon didn't think Schwarber went around either, backing his player after the game:

"Everybody's worried about electronic strike zone," the Cubs skipper said. "I want an electronic method to control check swings. That would be much more interesting and I would prefer that. Let the umpires call the game like they always do. Let's figure out a way to control check swings."

Regardless of the call, the Cubs walked 8 batters and gave up 6 runs to an Angels team missing its entire heart of the order — Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton are all hurt and Albert Pujols gave way to Justin Bour at first base with no DH in a National League park.

The Cubs also let another hitter reach on a catcher's interference — the fourth of the season already — and failed to cash in enough in the run column on 9 hits, 7 walks and a crucial ninth-inning error as Angels left fielder Brian Goodwin dropped Jason Heyward's fly ball two batters before Schwarber came to the plate.

The end result is the Cubs' ninth loss in the first 14 games of the season.

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Fallout from Albert Almora Jr.’s scary foul ball incident, one year later

Fallout from Albert Almora Jr.’s scary foul ball incident, one year later

A year ago Friday, a foul ball off the bat of Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. struck a young girl in the stands at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The young girl was rushed to the hospital and her family later revealed she suffered several head injuries as a result. The moment brought forth league-wide changes to protect fans from injury. 

One year later, here is a timeline of key dates in the fallout from the incident.

Fallout from Albert Almora Jr.'s scary foul ball incident

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How Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. regrouped after emotionally trying 2019 season

How Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. regrouped after emotionally trying 2019 season

Among the more interesting Cubs storylines sidelined with the rest of baseball during the coronavirus shutdown was the career restart center fielder Albert Almora Jr. seemed to promise after an emotionally trying 2019 season.

A tumultuous, wrenching 2019 season unlike any he had ever experienced in his baseball life.

“That’s a fact,” Almora said after a strong start in spring games, and just before professional sports across the country were shut down indefinitely in March.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the harrowing night in Houston when Almora’s foul ball struck a young girl in the head, an incident that caused serious, lingering injuries, resulted in league-wide action to better protect fans and that in the moment dropped Almora to a knee, shaken and in tears.

TIMELINE: Fallout from Albert Almora Jr.'s scary foul ball incident

It was the most emotionally fraught moment in a Cubs season that was otherwise filled with competitive extremes that finished on a low note, off-the-field drama that finished with the release of a former All-Star shortstop and failed expectations that finished with the manager getting fired.

What followed for Almora was his worst performance as a baseball player, including a .215 average and .570 OPS the rest of the season, and a two-week demotion to the minors in August.

Almora has repeatedly denied his performance was impacted by that moment in Houston.

“No,” he said again this spring. “That’s an excuse.”

But the father of two young kids won’t deny that “it definitely impacted me.”

What’s certain is that by the time he returned to the team this spring, he had a new, quieter swing and a renewed mindset that had him in what he called a better place mentally.

A strong inner circle of friends and loved ones were part of the reset, he said, and in particular “just me listening and opening up to new advice.”

Almora, of course, did nothing wrong, and there was nothing he could have done to prevent the horrible moment — like so many other players and fans and similar moments at games that came before that one.

And while that knowledge won’t eliminate the emotions that might linger, one valuable outcome of the incident was near immediate action by the White Sox and Nationals to extend their protective netting to the foul poles at their ballparks — and MLB announcing in December all teams would expand protective netting by the start of the 2020 season.

Almora’s response, meanwhile, has been about just that — focusing on his response to the way his performance fell short last year, on the things he could change to regroup and restart a career that seemed on the rise until 2019.

“I’m glad [the struggles] happened,” he said. “You have to grow from things like that. You have two options: You can fold and let it beat you, or you learn from it and grow.

“I’m fortunate I had good people around me that gave me an easier chance to just turn the page, man. You hear that phrase a lot in this game: Turn the page, turn the page. But it’s hard. It’s hard when you’re constantly failing and constantly not performing the way you know you can and letting your guys down …

“It was tough,” he added. “And it’s not figured out. No one here figures it out. But you do the things you can control. … I’m in a good mental spot right now, and that’s all I can really ask for.”

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