Funk-buster? Schwarber locked in vs. Reds

Rookie ready to help Cubs in postseason push

Funk-buster? Schwarber locked in vs. Reds

CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber's two-run home run in the seventh inning was the game-winner for the Cubs in Tuesday night's 5-4 win over the Reds, but it was the rookie's walk in the fourth that got manager Joe Maddon excited.

Schwarber was 3-for-18 in five games on the Cubs' West Coast road trip, and Maddon had noticed the rookie was struggling. It's been his first funk.

Schwarber on Cubs' win

"It's hard to maintain that level of player excellence at the plate, especially for a first-year guy, for that long," Maddon said. "What I saw tonight was the walk. The moment he walked, I said, 'When you're walking, you're hitting.'

"He needed to accept the walk right there and just calm his feet down. He's been real jumpy at the plate and when you do that, you get away from your hands. I thought the walk helped him a lot."

Schwarber agreed. He had struck out in the first, then drew the walk in the fourth and singled in the sixth before launching his 13th home run of the season in the seventh.

"I chased a pitch my first at-bat, and I got out," Schwarber said. "I had to tell myself to slow everything down. Things have been a little bit, not rushed -- I'm seeing the ball well. I've been struggling and putting a little pressure on myself. Just go back and stick to the basics in my approach and be patient. That walk really helped."

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So did the home run, which helped the Cubs keep pace in the National League Wild Card race. Tuesday was their second win in the last seven games. Veteran David Ross tried to get Schwarber to take a curtain call, but he wouldn't do it. However, the cameras caught the rookie sitting in the dugout, and Ross applauded, which was the next best thing.

"He gave me a little pump-up," Schwarber said of Ross.

Schwarber connected on a 3-2 pitch from Burke Badenhop, who also noticed a patient approach at the plate. The Reds' right-hander had struck Schwarber out on Monday in the seventh inning.

"I think he made a good adjustment with the pitch and I didn't make a good adjustment throwing a different pitch," Badenhop said of the at-bat Tuesday.

"It's a cat and mouse game," Schwarber said. "You have to make the adjustment. If you don't make the adjustment, they'll keep doing the same thing. For me, I have to be patient, and get the pitch that I can handle."

A year ago, Schwarber was wrapping up his first pro season in the Minor Leagues. The Cubs' 2014 first-round pick, he is in a big league playoff race for the first time. September baseball is different.

"Joe's mentioned it," Schwarber said. "He said, 'Wait until September. You get an extra pep in your step coming to the park every day. It's not the dog days, it's that time to go after the race and make it ot the playoffs.' We all feel it."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.