Richard Justice

Cubs, Schwarber special October stories

Wrigley to host 1st WS game since '45; young slugger returns on fire

Cubs, Schwarber special October stories

CLEVELAND -- The Chicago Cubs have come so far and accomplished so much that, after a while, even the improbable has begun to seem routine.

For instance, a World Series game at Wrigley Field.

World Series Game 3: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

There'll be one at the Friendly Confines for the first time in 71 years on Friday night. Take a moment to wrap your mind around that. This isn't ust about Cubs fans, either, although they're part of what makes the place special.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 25 CLE 6, CHC 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 26 CHC 5, CLE 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 28 CLE 1, CHC 0 video
Gm 4 Oct. 29 CLE 7, CHC 2 video
Gm 5 Oct. 30 CHC 3, CLE 2 video
Gm 6 Nov. 1 CHC 9, CLE 3 video
Gm 7 Nov. 2 CHC 8 CLE, 7 (10) video

This will be for pretty much every baseball fan on the planet, because virtually all of them have either visited the place or put it on his or her bucket list. To have a World Series there and to tie generations of baseball fans together will create memories that endure.

Shop for Cubs World Series and NL champs gear

"It's going to be incredibly special," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's the finest venue there is in professional sports, and maybe in all of sports."

Maddon's team had just beaten the Cleveland Indians, 5-1, in Game 2 on Wednesday night at Progressive Field to tie the World Series at one game apiece.

This Fall Classic already had a storybook quality with these two iconic franchises playing on the sport's biggest stage. And just when you might have thought it couldn't get any better, one of those stories comes along that reminds us why we love this stuff.

Kyle Schwarber represents so many good things, and his return to Chicago's roster in time to play in the World Series is almost beyond comprehension.

Schwarber on Game 2 win

Schwarber hasn't just returned. He has returned as the 23-year-old impact player the Cubs have always envisioned him being. In two World Series games as Chicago's designated hitter, Schwarber reached base five times in nine plate appearances, with three hits and two walks.

In Game 2 on Wednesday, Schwarber was on base three times, singling in runs in the third and fifth innings and drawing a walk in the sixth.

Maddon on Schwarber's presence

This was the Cubs at their best. They got nine hits and drew eight walks. The Cubs were smart and patient at the plate, grinding out at-bats, getting Indians starter Trevor Bauer out of the game in the fourth inning, and watching Cleveland manager Terry Francona use six relievers.

With starter Jake Arrieta throwing no-hit ball for 5 1/3 innings, Maddon's team controlled every phase of the game.

"Any time you can put pressure on the pitcher, that's huge," Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. "That gets the pitch counts up and gets us into the bullpen."

When Chicago decided to place Schwarber on the active roster, it seemed like a gamble.

Schwarber on coming up big

Who spends six months rehabbing a knee injury and is then able to hit Major League pitching in the World Series?

"It's never been done, right?" Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist said. "The guy is just fearless."

Maddon threw Schwarber into the mix, batting him fifth in his first two games since April 7. His fourth-inning double in Game 1 was his first hit since Spring Training.

If you're looking for something comparable, don't bother.

"When you get the game taken away from you, you're just excited to play again," Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "He's worked his tail off to be here. I don't think this stage fazes him a bit."

The Cubs don't know if Schwarber will be medically cleared to play the outfield in the next three games at Wrigley Field. Maddon said the decision will be left to the team's medical staff.

Schwarber on playing defense

Regardless, just to have Schwarber for pinch-hitting duty is far more than the Cubs ever expected. When he wrecked his left knee in an outfield collision in April and underwent surgery to repair two torn ligaments, doctors told him he wouldn't play until next season.

Only thing is, Schwarber didn't go away, and plenty of his teammates noticed he was around constantly, working out and lifting weights and watching hours of video.

Even before he could swing a bat, Schwarber was visualizing himself in the cage, watching pitch after pitch, thousands of them. When he got the go-ahead to play a couple of games in the Arizona Fall League, he was mentally way down the road.

Schwarber reaches three times

Now in the glare of a World Series spotlight, Schwarber seems remarkably calm. Perhaps, as Rizzo said, the idea of being back is so thrilling that everything else is easy.

"Baseball's a crazy game," Schwarber said. "It will do crazy things to you, but this is the moment that we all look for when we were little kids, to play in the World Series and win it. We just took a small step today, but we've still got a long way to go."

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.