Kyle Schwarber looks to be rounding into October form right when the Cubs need it most


The weather is cooling off, football is once again dominating the TV airwaves on Saturdays and Sundays and corporations are adding pumpkin spice to everything they can.

In other words, it's #SchwarberSZN.

Kyle Schwarber has formed a reputation as a big-game player for his October heroics in 2015 and 2016 and it looks like he's heating up at just the right time once again in 2018.

"It's always a fun part of the year," Schwarber said. "Once it comes down to the end and October's coming around the corner. It's a brand new season after the season's over. It's 0-0 and it's all about winning. That's what I love about it."

After missing nearly two weeks with a back issue, Schwarber returned to the starting lineup this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field, serving as the Cubs' designated hitter Friday and Saturday and starting in left field Sunday.

He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts Friday, admitting he needed to get his timing back.

Schwarber assured reporters after that game he would need only one game to get his timing back and held true to his word, reaching base safely seven out of his eight trips to the plate between Saturday and Sunday.

"I told you I wasn't lying," Schwarber said after Sunday's 6-1 win, sporting a big grin. "I was PRAYING I wasn't lying. But no, it was a good couple days at the plate. Just gotta keep that good feeling rolling into these last few games and into the postseason and keep this whole team vibe that we got goin'."

He singled, doubled and walked Saturday, then hit his first home run of the season off a left-handed pitcher in the second inning Sunday, a majestic shot to right-center:

Schwarber followed that up with a double and a pair of walks his next three times up.

The home run swing Sunday was nice, but Joe Maddon was just as pleased with Schwarber utilizing the whole field Saturday.

"He had one or two home run swings, but the ball to left field, he went with the pitch. You can see off his front foot a little bit, trying to stay on top of the ball, which he did," Maddon said. "And then he hooked the [double] pretty well. I think he's trying to hit right now, not just trying to hit home runs.

"And I kinda like the approach. If the pitcher makes a mistake in the right spot, it's gonna go far. But I prefer all of our hitters being good hitters first and permit pitchers to throw you home runs."

The offensive outburst from "America's Large Adult Son" could not have come at a better time for the Cubs, who have struggled to find consistency on offense all season and particularly since the All-Star Break.

Then again, keep this in mind: Saturday was the first day since July 22 in which Maddon was able to write out a lineup that featured the trio of Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward and it was the first time all year those three had been in the same lineup as Daniel Murphy all at once.

Assuming they're healthy, Schwarber, Murphy and Heyward figure to start every playoff game against right-handed pitchers.

But the thing with Schwarber is when he steps his game up, it doesn't matter if he's facing righties or lefties. He's proven what he can do against the likes of even Andrew Miller on the game's biggest stage.

While he was a talking point essentially every day of the 2017 season, Schwarber has flown under the radar in 2018.

At times, it's almost seemed like he's gotten lost in the Cubs lineup, but he's quietly posted a .362 on-base percentage and .483 slugging while the homer Sunday was his 26th of the season.

Remember, this is a guy with a career slash line of .311/.408/.623 in the postseason (1.031 OPS) with 6 homers and 11 RBI in 21 games and he completely transformed the Cubs' lineup in the World Series two falls ago.

"We talked about in the dugout — that presents differently," Maddon said. "We start doing stuff like that and get Jason Heyward going again, it just presents differently. That's the only way I could describe it. It makes the lineup longer.

"It gives the other side more reason to think about things. Listen, it was pretty to watch. It was not fluke-ish. He kept his body out of it. His hands were very active today, every at-bat. It looked different.

"... In a perverse way, this injury might be actually helping him because he's really not trying to get his body so much involved as he's getting his hands involved, which is the better way to do it. That's what I'm seeing."

For his part, Schwarber wasn't ready to compare it to any specific mechanical change, but more that he needed to slow the game down.

"It's just about seeing the ball and slowing things down," he said. "That first day, I was just kinda sped up, back in the swing of things, but the last couple days, it was just kinda slow it down and take good, quality swings instead of trying to force things to happen."

Contact Us