Schwarber now gets chance to face Strasburg

Outfielder worked on his approach in Triple-A when Cubs faced Nats

Schwarber now gets chance to face Strasburg

WASHINGTON -- Kyle Schwarber has never faced Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg, who will start Game 1 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile tonight, and has never played in Nationals Park. When the Cubs faced the Nationals in Washington in late June, Schwarber was playing for Triple-A Iowa.

Schwarber was batting .171 when he was sent down, and in the 65 games since the outfielder rejoined the Cubs from July 6 until Oct. 1, he batted .255 with 18 homers, six doubles, one triple and 31 RBIs.

NLDS Game 1: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT on TBS

"I knew this is something I did to myself," Schwarber said of his early offensive struggles. "It was no one else's fault -- it was me. I had a choice [when he was sent down]. I could either be Mr. Pouty Pants or go out and do something about it. I wanted to do something about it. That's why I never hung my head one day."

Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CHC 3, WSH 0 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 7 WSH 6, CHC 3 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 9 CHC 2, WSH 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 11 WSH 5, CHC 0 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 12 CHC 9, WSH 8 WATCH

Cubs manager Joe Maddon remembers the day he called Schwarber into his office to tell him about the demotion.

"When we sent him out, he sat there in my office in Chicago, very straight-up, stoic, and he understood -- 'I get it, I deserve it,'" Maddon said Thursday. "'I should go back and get this straightened out, but I'll be back with a vengeance,' that kind of a thing.

"Everything that we had thought about Kyle before this occurred, again, was validated in that moment," Maddon said. "And just moving it backward a little bit from there, this guy did not play last year. He played Spring Training, he played a couple games, in the beginning, or one series, and then a last series. That's it."

The reason Schwarber missed so much time was because he tore two ligaments in his left knee in the third game of the 2016 season. He made a miraculous recovery to participate in the World Series as the designated hitter, and this year was projected as the Cubs' leadoff man.

"I'm at the root of the problem -- my expectations were so high based on projection and knowing the individual, and he missed a season of baseball, and that's really not easy to do," Maddon said.

Maddon on Nationals, confidence

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"Once he got a requisite number of at-bats back under his belt, all of a sudden the talent started to show back up. It's not easy to do what he has done."

Worth noting

• The Cubs won't have stacks of scouting reports to pore over prior to Game 1. Maddon likes keeping things simple at this time of year.

"You don't need extra scouting reports, you don't need to dig any deeper," Maddon said. "Now is when guys need to play."

Jason Heyward has the most at-bats against Strasburg and was 15-for-37 (.405). Most of the other Cubs have a very small sample size. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, for example, is 2-for-5 against the Nationals' right-hander. Bryant prefers to go by his own at-bats against a pitcher rather than study too many reports.

"I keep it as little as possible so that I keep my approach and my game simple," Bryant said.

Jake Arrieta, slotted to pitch Game 4, if necessary, felt good after his Wednesday bullpen session, Maddon said. Kyle Hendricks is starting Game 1, followed by Jon Lester and Jose Quintana in the best-of-five series. Arrieta was pushed back to give him more time to treat a sore right hamstring, injured Sept. 4.

• "To take Game 1 is always big in every series. The NLDS in '15, we lost Game 1, but we came back and won that. We've been through a lot of different scenarios. We're not going to ride and die on one game, one moment. We know it's a five-game series. It's one game at a time." -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo

• Fans can watch the Cubs play the Nationals in the NLDS on the large video board at the Park at Wrigley tonight and Saturday. Tickets are $10, and proceeds will benefit Cubs Charities. The gates to the area will open one hour before the start of the broadcast. Fans can purchase food and beverages. Limited parking is available at the Toyota Camry Lot at 1126 W. Grace Street.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.