- Ezra Shaw/Getty
The World Series will head to Wrigley Field tied up at one game apiece after the Cubs took Game 2 in Cleveland on Wednesday night, 6-1.
Chicago’s win marked their first World Series game victory since 1945, and was largely the product of a brilliant effort from Jake Arrieta, who took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning.
Perhaps the biggest story of the World Series so far has been the hot bat of Kyle Schwarber, who just last week was playing Arizona Fall League baseball and is now producing key RBIs for the Cubs as they inch closer to their first championship since 1908.
Schwarber is 23, and last season he emerged as an offensive juggernaut for the North Siders. This year, though, he collided with Dexter Fowler in the outfield during the third game of the season, tearing up his knee and missing the entire rest of the season.
Schwarber was initially expected to be out until spring training next season.
As he rehabbed, the Cubs managed fine without him. They won an MLB-best 103 games, and reached the World Series with relative ease. But in the days leading up to the Series, with Schwarber quietly making strides in his recovery in Arizona, Joe Maddon activated him to their 53-man roster. Then he slotted him into the DH position in Cleveland’s AL ballpark.
During Game 1, Schwarber hit a double off the wall against Corey Kluber that was kept in the park with help from the wind. That marked his first hit of the season, making him the first player to ever record his first hit of the season during the World Series (and against Kluber, no less).
He followed that performance up with an even better one on Tuesday night: a walk, two RBIs on two singles, and a run scored.
This whole Kyle Schwarber story is just UNREAL.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 27, 2016
Nobody – probably including Schwarber himself – saw this breakout World Series performance coming. He hadn’t seen Major League pitchers in 200 days and was playing minor league fall baseball one week earlier. It’s a terrific story, to be sure. One that legitimately merits the cliché what sports are all about.
The problem is, now that the Series is back at Wrigley, the DH must be replaced in the batting order by the pitcher. (Remember that during the World Series, the games at the National League ballpark do not allow the DH, while the games at the American League one do.)
This means that Schwarber is unlikely to play. For one thing, doctors have not cleared him to play the field. And, more to the point, he’s simply far too big a defensive risk.
During last year’s playoffs, the Cubs traded Schwarber’s big bat for his suspect fielding. They hid him in left field, but he still made several costly errors and looked all around uncomfortable playing outfield. Now, he’s coming off a bad knee injury and hasn’t played outfield since April. Even if the doctors do clear him before Game 3, it’s unclear whether it’s worth the risk.
So what do you do if you’re Joe Maddon? Cleveland manager Terry Francona has said openly that he’s rolling with a three-man pitching rotation. That means the Cubs will see Kluber for Game 4, and Schwarber is hitting as well as anyone on the Cubs.
After Game 2, Schwarber said he didn’t know if he was physically ready to play outfield. That probably means we’ll see him only as a pinch hitter at Wrigley, where the next three games will be held. Still, right now he’s about as good a pinch hitter as they could ask for.