CHICAGO -- Is it Babe Schwarber, or do you prefer Kyle Ruth?
Schwarber is becoming semi-legendary not more than a year removed from attending classes at Indiana University. He’s green, but he’s good.
“I’m trying to keep my head buried and not even look at it,” Schwarber said of his success. “Once you start pressing and doing things you can’t control, that’s where I’ll start getting into slumps.”
Speaking of slumps, Schwarber felt like he was in one -- if three games and 11 at-bats can constitute a slump. After striking out in his first at-bat on Thursday against Brewers starter Tyler Cravy, enough was enough. His next four at-bats went walk, home run, home run, run-scoring single.
“Stop trying to swing at stuff I can’t hit,” Schwarber said of his approach. “I was swinging at stuff out of the zone. That’s not me usually. That’s going to happen. You have to limit the time that it does happen and get back to being yourself.”
It’s the mark of a good player, one who can limit the slumps and lengthen the hot streaks. Another good sign: Schwarber hit one ball out to center and another into the left-field bleachers. It helps when the wind is blowing out as well. The Cubs hit five home runs in a game -- three in the fifth inning alone -- for the first time since August 19, 2013.
“Two different yards,” manager Joe Maddon said. “If that game is played on another day with the wind blowing in, it’s probably a one-run game more than likely.”
The Cubs rank fifth in home runs in the National League this season. Just think if the wind was blowing out more often. Thursday was a rarity.
“It’s definitely much more enjoyable,” Schwarber said. “You just have to get it in the air to go. It’s kind of crazy. That’s why it’s Wrigley Field. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Help from the wind shouldn’t take away from Schwarber or the rest of the offense. They’ve been performing well at the plate for the better part of two weeks, no matter which direction the wind is blowing or where they are playing. The Brewers have been victimized by all the mashing as the Cubs have won seven in a row against them for the first time. And there’s been no magic formula, just solid improvements by a young and talented team, which has vaulted them into the middle of the playoff race.
“I’ve always been a big believer it doesn’t matter how you start it’s how you finish,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said. “Now these guys are swinging the bats, having great at-bats.”
Lester said Schwarber’s presence has “lengthened” the lineup for the Cubs, who have scored four or more runs in 11 of 13 games. Things are going so well they even won the two games in which they scored fewer than four runs. Amazingly, they’ve been led by the player with the least experience. Since returning to the big leagues after the All-Star break, Schwarber is hitting .321 with a .427 on-base percentage and seven home runs. His 1.057 OPS leads the Cubs by a mile during that time frame.
“He doesn’t swing at a baseball,” Maddon stated. “He hits a baseball.”
Maddon compared Schwarber to Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He has such a short, compact left-handed swing,” Maddon said. “That little short thing that he does.”
“We’re all trying to contribute to the team,” Schwarber said. “I slowed it down today.”
“And it’s all about being a good teammate.”
Spoken like a veteran.