Hours before Tuesday’s 6-1 win over the Mariners, the Cubs scratched Kris Bryant from the starting lineup due to right knee soreness, an ailment that has bothered him since late-July.
The news was unfortunate for the Cubs, as it coincided with the returns of Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras to the starting lineup for the first time since landing on the restricted and injured lists, respectively.
So, even with Zobrist and Contreras returning, the Cubs were unable to unleash a full-strength lineup for the first time in months (Javier Báez also sat due to a sore thumb). Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s response?
“We still have nine good names in the lineup regardless,” Maddon said pregame. “It’d have been nice to see what it looked like with everybody, but it just did not want to occur today.”
One player among those nine stood out amongst the rest, however: Kyle Schwarber.
With Bryant out, Schwarber slid up from fifth in the initial lineup to second. The Cubs left fielder finished the night a stellar 3-for-3, finishing a triple shy of the cycle while also drawing a walk. Despite his impressive night, Schwarber was quick to point out the impact Zobrist and Contreras had on the lineup.
“It was great having Zo, and obviously Contreras back, too,” Schwarber said. “Benny at the top of the lineup, seeing a lot of pitches up there and Contreras having a lot of good at-bats, with the home run there.
“Being able to have those two guys back, it’s definitely a good thing.”
On paper, it’s obvious what the returns of Zobrist and Contreras mean to the Cubs. Once Báez and Bryant return to the lineup – which could come as soon as Thursday’s series opener against the Brewers – the Cubs can roll out a starting group capable of doing damage at every position, sans the pitcher’s spot.
Now in his fifth MLB season, Schwarber is no forgotten man on the Cubs roster. However, he can get lost in the shuffle on a team that has many big names, from Bryant to Báez to Anthony Rizzo to Jon Lester and others.
What also can get lost in the shuffle is what Schwarber has been doing offensively over the last few weeks.
In his last 15 games, Schwarber holds a .313/.400/.750 slashline, hitting five home runs over that stretch. He’s in some kind of rhythm right now, which he agreed is part of his recent offensive success
“Yeah, it’s a part of it,” he said. “Just being able to have good rhythm out there but also being able to get the barrel to the ball. Whenever I can do that, it’s going to come off pretty hot and I’ll take it, if it’s on the ground or in the air.”
It came via the latter in one at-bat Tuesday.
This >>> pic.twitter.com/mABJsIBnmj— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) September 4, 2019
Schwarber hit second on Tuesday, though it’s unlikely he remains there as the season winds down. The returns of the aforementioned players will bump him down in the lineup, and for the Cubs, that could pay huge dividends. Not many teams have a 30+ home run guy hitting in the 6-8 holes, let alone one who has great strike zone judgement.
Where he hits isn’t something Schwarber hangs his hat on – he said postgame “wherever I hit, I hit.” The same can be said about reaching the 40-home run plateau, which he’s within shouting distance of.
“I’m not going to look that far. I think I’m just [going to] take it day-by-day,” he said. “We’re in a big spot here. Just try to take it day-by-day, try to get a win every day.
“If you keep continually doing things to help the team win, good things will happen.”
Schwarber is doing a lot of good things offensively right now. Should that continue, the Cubs offense will reap the rewards.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.