Anything better than a four-strikeout night for Kyle Schwarber would have been a pleasant surprise for the big beefy boy whose first at-bats against major-league pitching since April 7 came against Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller in Game 1 of the World Series.
Seriously. We should not spare any attention from the fact that Schwarber missed all but five plate appearances in the 2016 regular season after an outfield collision that tore his ACL and LCL, then made a brief cameo at Arizona Fall League, then hopped on a private jet and showed up ready to play in Cleveland. I think us regular people forget how ridiculously resilient professional athletes are. If I tore my ACL even one time, I’d probably never get off my couch again. Just six months after shredding his left knee, Schwarbs is out here on the bases and batting fifth in the order, and became the first player in MLB history to earn his first hit of the season in the World Series.
And somehow, Joe Maddon doesn’t look like a madman for it. In fact, Schwarber’s return reflected pretty well on the bespectacled skipper. The Cubs lost, but his husky lefty getting on base twice should be somewhat of a tiny consolation prize.
Schwarber struck out swinging in the second inning, then in the fourth knocked a big ol’ 378-footer to right that was kind of bobbled off the wall by Lonnie Chisenhall for a two-out double. But Javy Baez couldn’t drive Schwarber home (and it would have taken a big one from Javy to get him there).
Schwarber battled Andrew Miller for a walk in the seventh. It’s hard to imagine going from a pitching machine, to some schmo in the Arizona Fall League, to waiting out Miller for just the reliever’s third walk of the postseason, but there it is. (Kris Bryant drew a walk off Miller in the eighth, too.)
Down three runs in the 8th, the Cubs had two on and two out when Schwarber came up again. It was some real potential narrative shit. I had a tweet ready to send that was just “Kirk Schwarber” because I thought it might be more obvious than “Kyle Gibson.” Either way, Schwarber struck out swinging on a 2-2 slider from Miller.
Ben Zobrist went 3-for-4 last night, but Schwarber was the only other Cub to get on base twice. Maddon said after the game that Schwarber will start Game 2, but that he still hasn’t been medically cleared to play defense.
Before the game, Pete Rose predicted Schwarber would strike out three times. Not sure how much Rose is in the hole for that now, but at least Schwarber saved us from Rose earning any bragging rights. And Schwarber’s big double at least saved Joe Maddon from grief over his choice to start America’s large adult son. Terry Francona’s been pushing all the right buttons this postseason, but Maddon’s hit rate is right up there.
My first thought when I heard Maddon was going to let Schwarber DH, let alone bat fifth, was that Maddon was willing to do something experimental in the first game of the goshdang World Series. I no longer think it was as risky as that. He had faith in his coaches, medical staff, and in Schwarber himself that the big boy would be ready. And he had faith in the rest of the lineup that if Schwarber did strike out every time, the team wouldn’t be ruined for it. It showed a calm confidence that I’m sure Cubs fans are not exactly emulating following last night’s rough loss.