Three-run blast was Cubs slugger's hardest hit off a lefty in regular season
By Nate Latsch
Special to MLB.com |
ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Schwarber was just looking for a good pitch. When he got it, he turned it into a clutch three-run home run that was the difference in the Cubs' 6-4 win over the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon.
The left fielder's seventh-inning homer off reliever Brett Cecil not only gave his team a 5-4 lead in a game they had trailed to that point, but it was also the hardest-hit shot he's had off a left-hander in the regular season. The homer had an exit velocity of 112.1 mph, according to Statcast™.
"I was just more looking for a good pitch," Schwarber said. "If it was a slider or fastball, whatever it was, I just wanted to jump on it. He's a good pitcher. To get behind on guys like that, sometimes you just don't want to do it. My approach is I'm going to be selective-aggressive. I got my pitch from pitch one, and was able to put a good swing on it."
The home run was the 17th of Schwarber's young career during the regular season -- of those 17, seven have been go-ahead (five) or game-tying (two) homers -- but just his third against a lefty hurler.
Does he take more satisfaction hitting a homer against a lefty?
"Nope," Schwarber said. "Just being able to come up in a big spot, it's always a good feeling."
The Cubs' seventh-inning rally started with a unique twist as leadoff hitter Matt Szczur -- pinch-hitting for pitcher John Lackey -- struck out against Cecil, but reached first base on a wild pitch. The third strike eluded catcher Yadier Molina because it was stuck on his chest protector and Molina couldn't locate it.
"I can honestly say I've never seen anything like that," Szczur said. "I didn't know until the first-base coach said it was stuck to his stomach. I just saw the ball go in the dirt so that's why I took off."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't have an explanation for how that was even possible. Neither did Molina, who also said he's never seen anything like that before.
"I dropped the ball and it was sticking in my chest," Molina said. "I don't know how."
The Cubs did not ask home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott to inspect Molina's equipment or the ball, according to ESPN.com. There are no rules forbidding catchers from putting pine tar on their uniforms to help them get a better grip on the ball, particularly in chilly conditions.
"It was probably Tuf-Skin, sticky spray, something like that, maybe pine tar," Cubs outfielder and former Cardinal Jason Heyward said. "Probably Tuf-Skin. I've never seen that happen. We joked about it the next time I came up to the plate. We had a saying when I was over here: 'Never seen it.'"
Former Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay followed Szczur's strange strikeout with a walk, and Schwarber followed with his blast to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead.
"After that strikeout, after that play, it changed everything," Molina said. "We got the walk on J.J. He got a good at-bat. The first pitch [against Schwarber], we tried to go away and we missed in the middle. That was a good swing by Kyle. But if we get that first out, everything changes."
Everything did change ... for the Cubs.
Instead of a game that looked like it could be decided by a Ben Zobrist error that led to three Cardinals runs in the first inning, the reigning World Series champions rallied and won an early-season game -- and series -- against their rivals.
"It was a good team win right there," Schwarber said. "Lackey battled his butt off. He gave us six quality innings. For things to kind of go our way there with Yadi and the ball sticking on the the chest protector, [then] a good at-bat by Jon Jay. I was able to get a good pitch and drive it."
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.