It’s the issue that won’t go away: Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff for the Chicago Cubs.
Maybe Schwarber began to put that to bed Tuesday night in the most emphatic way.
He came up with two runners on and crushed a 3-run homer into the right-field bleachers to highlight a 4-run fourth inning and break a 2-2 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. The Cubs went on to win 8-3.
“It takes 1 at-bat to have a great night,” Maddon said afterward. “That’s what I tell him.”
The subject of Schwarber batting first comes up almost every day with manager Joe Maddon. He doesn’t seem to mind. Schwarber entered the game with a line of .196/.322/.330 with 3 homers and 9 RBI.
“Years ago, I used to go to a function down in Tampa Bay, Chamber of Commerce,” Maddon said. “And I had them make the lineup. I sat up in front and said, ‘Who do you guys want tonight?’ They were actually, I think, 4-2 or 3-3 with the lineup, whatever we did back then. When it comes to the Kyle Schwarbers of the world, it’s easy, understandable as to why people would think what they think.
“This guy, to me, (his slow start) has nothing to do with him hitting leadoff. He could be hitting seventh, eighth, ninth, whatever. His struggles are not about where he’s hitting in the batting order.”
I don’t expect Maddon to seek lineup advice from the Chicago Union League Club in the morning, but he is going to stick with Schwarber in the No 1 spot.
Although Schwarber’s on-base — not to mention the less-important stat of batting average — is down at the moment, he sees pitches and accepts walks. If he begins to hit, as expected, the OBP will rise.
He has not seemed worried about the start. The home run was the 20th of his career. He has reached 20 homers in the fewest career games (97) of any Cubs player (since 1913).
“I feel like I’m right there, I really do,” he said. “Obviously I’ve just got to stick with the process. I can’t get outcome bases to where you focus on just a number. That’s why it’s called average. It’s an accumulation of something over the course of time.”
Jon Lester (1-1) started for the Cubs and pitched 5 innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 runs (2 earned). He gave up a first-inning homer to Aaron Altherr before Kris Bryant tied the game in the bottom of the first with his fifth homer of the season. Bryant came out of the game for a pinch hitter in the eighth. The Cubs said he experienced “tightness” in his calf, but Bryant said after the game he would be ready to go Wednesday night.
Javier Baez was 4-for-4. He was a double short of the cycle, and he took a big turn around first base in the eighth on a basehit, but he settled for a single.
“I gave everything I had to go two, but I wasn’t going to have the chance, so I just stopped at first,” Baez said.