CLEVELAND — It may not too genuine if you’re the Chicago Cubs, losers of Game 1 of the World Series 6-0, to go around and put silver linings on things. The Cubs are expected to win this series, to break the so-called curse, to leave 108 years in the past.
Getting beaten handily by the Cleveland Indians, their robotic ace Corey Kluber, their backup catcher who suddenly started hitting homers and their bullpen dynamo Andrew Miller — none of that was in the script.
Chicago’s North Side will wake up disappointed and disgruntled on Wednesday, as it should. But if it’s looking for that silver lining, that one good thing to latch on to, here’s a name that will make even the most morose Cubs fan smile: Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber, the comeback kid, the slugger who was supposed to have been lost for the year after tearing his ACL and MCL in his second game, was back and showed the kind of resolve the Cubs will need now that they’re playing from behind.
The Cubs gave Schwarber a tough job when they put him on the roster and gave him a Game 1 start: Go from not playing baseball since April to two days in the Arizona Fall League, where you face Double-A and Triple-A pitching, to the World Series, where you’ll face a Cy Young contender in Corey Kluber and the most dominant postseason bullpen arm in Andrew Miller.
And Schwarber? He was unfazed. He said prior to Game 1 that he took 1,300 balls from a pitching machine to get his eye and timing back. Still, analysts doubted just how much Schwarber would be able to help the Cubs.
Pete Rose, on the MLB on Fox pregame show, said Schwarber wouldn’t be able to muster a hit. John Smoltz, who is the color man next to Joe Buck in the broadcast booth, said the same. That’s no knock on Schwarber. It’s the circumstance. Even great hitters would have troubling adjusting to World Series speed that quickly.
But Schwarber proved every doubter wrong. He struck out in his first at-bat, but in his second appearance, smoked a double to right field that nearly left the yard. It was the best hit of the night for the Cubs at that point.
In the seventh, Schwarber showed a surprising amount of discipline considering the situation. Facing Miller, he worked a six-pitch walk, laying off of Miller’s lethal three sliders in the process.
That made Schwarber one of only two Cubs to reach base twice in the game. And that made for a couple interesting factoids. Schwarber became the first non-pitcher in baseball history to get his first hit of the season in the World Series. He’s also only the second left-handed batter this season to draw a walk against Miller.
More important than either of those things, though, he showed that he could be a weapon for the Cubs in this series. Maybe not in Chicago, because he’d require additional medical clearance to play the field, but certainly in Game 2 in Cleveland where he can DH again.
“What I saw today is that he absolutely will start tomorrow,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “He definitely passed the eye test for me regarding swinging the bat at the plate.”
Schwarber passed his own tests too.
“Those guys are two premier arms,” Schwarber said about Kluber and Miller after the game. “To be comfortable at the plate was definitely a plus for me.”
“It gave me confidence,” Schwarber said.
And it gave the Cubs a silver living — if you’re into that sort of thing.
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