Despite a glimmer of positive news on Kyle Schwarber prior to this weekend, the powerful lefty did not travel with the rest of the team to Arizona Sunday night.
Schwarber's back has kept him sidelined since September 5th, and with the Cubs currently slashing .215/.286/.301 with just 6 home runs over the last 14 days, the team could really use some of Schwarber's pop back in the lineup. The 25-year-old has 25 long-balls on the season and is walking in just over 15% of his at-bats, something the Cubs have struggled with in since Schwarber's absence.
And while having Schwarber available in the thick of a postseason race would help thunderously, Joe Maddon and the Cubs would prefer to see Schwarber be 100% healthy for the postseason - and later this weekend against the White Sox and their right-hand dominant pitching staff.
"(Schwarber's) staying," Joe Maddon said. "Try and avoid the plane rides. Lefty-Lefty matchups. Of course, there's a potential to play possibly in a pinch-hitting role or even on the second day, but really looking big picture we should see a lot of rightys this weekend. If he's able to DH that gives us a lot of flexibility on defense."
The good news is that it seems like Schwarber if the Cubs absolutely needed him to play, he could suit up. But, the Cubs don't and they know he'll be more effective later in the week without having to ride airplanes and can some right-handed hitting.
As the regular season games dwindle and the Cubs continue to fight to maintain first place in their division, and while the entire roster is fighting off fatigue, reinforcements are on the way in the form of Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward.
Reports surfaced Friday that Schwarber could potentially make his return to the lineup this weekend, but after riding the bench for Friday's 3-2 win over the Reds, Schwarber may not make a start until the Arizona series starting Monday.
Having Schwarber's bat available on the bench should be welcomed by Maddon, especially if Jason Heyward is truly ready to return and can supply some late-inning defensive help. Heyward ran for the first time since being placed on the disabled list Monday morning and has said there isn't much pain, but with only 14 games left on the season, Heyward doesn't want another setup back to force him off the postseason roster.
He was running the bases and took batting practice prior to Friday's game and should be ready to contribute by the Arizona series as well.
With only 1.5 game lead in the NL Central and an offense that can't seem to find a rhythm, Heyward and Schwarber returning to the lineup at the very least gives the Cubs their starting corner outfielders back as well as depth for the final push for the postseason.
Mass confusion broke out at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon.
Leading off the top of the second inning, Reds right fielder Mason Williams smoked an Alec Mills offering out to left-center.
Albert Almora Jr. tracked the ball all the way to the ivy, but that quirky basket hanging off the bleachers got in the way.
After presumably going over the fence, the ball bounced up and back onto the field of play, where Kyle Schwarber caught it on a fly.
Williams was unsure what to do, so he hesitated around second base, then continued his home run trot. Schwarber threw the ball back in toward second and waved his arms frantically to indicate the ball did not go over the fence. Meanwhile, Almora sat on the ground after tangling with the brick wall behind the vines.
The Cubs immediately challenged the play and the end result was one of the wackiest moments in the 2018 MLB season:
Yes, that's right, the ball bounced off the TOP of the basket. Thus, it was not a home run.
But since it struck something else, it wasn't an out either when Schwarber caught the ball.
Williams was forced to return to second base. He later scored on a Phillip Ervin double three pitches later, but it was still such an odd sight.
The ball itself is only a hit 30 percent of the time, coming off Williams' bat at 95.5 mph.
But the 9 mph wind blowing out at Wrigley Field helped combine for one of the most improbable moments in the century-plus year history of the ballpark.