Tank continues to roll: Cubs win 7th straight

Schwindel's RBI single propels Cubs; fourth straight game with decisive hit

September 7th, 2021

CHICAGO -- As slipped behind in the count in the eighth inning on Monday afternoon, Cubs fans inside Wrigley Field started a chant that slowly grew in volume.

"Frank the tank! Frank the tank!"

Inside the Cubs’ dugout, bench coach Andy Green found himself laughing over the simple fact that Schwindel was once again in the batter’s box with the game in the balance. Of course, it was Schwindel. This is a fan base that loves its cult heroes, and the Cubs first baseman is in the midst of his moment.

“I was borderline giddy in the dugout,” Green said, “thinking, 'It can't happen again, can it?'”

Why not?

To send the Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the Reds, Schwindel sent an 0-2 cutter from Reds righty Michael Lorenzen into right field. As the baseball bounced through the hole in the infield and found the grass, Schwindel wheeled an arm around over and over again, signaling for rookie Alfonso Rivas to head home.

Rivas scored and the Schwindy City Cubs picked up their seventh win in a row. It marks the longest winning streak for the North Siders since a seven-game run from April 27-May 5, 2019. And this is a stripped-down roster that no longer features a star-packed core. Schwindel is manning first in place of Anthony Rizzo.

No, this stretch of heroics will not make fans forget the franchise icon traded to the Yankees. But it will help them remember Schwindel’s name for a long time, and make it more understandable if Schwindel winds up back at first base come 2022.

This was the fourth game in a row, and the fifth out of six, in which Schwindel delivered the game’s decisive hit and RBI.

“He needs to keep that mentality and not change,” said Green, who is the Cubs’ acting manager with David Ross self-isolating this week following a positive COVID-19 test result. “And not be like the rest of us who are kind of just laughing and marveling and enjoying what he's doing.”

Here is a snapshot of Schwindel’s recent heroics:

Wednesday at Twins: Three-run homer in third inning in 3-0 win.

Friday vs. Pirates: Go-ahead homer in the sixth in 6-5 win.

Saturday vs. Pirates: Walk-off single in the ninth for 7-6 win.

Sunday vs. Pirates: Go-ahead grand slam in the seventh in 11-8 win.

Entering Monday’s action, Schwindel was tied for third in the Majors with 44 hits since Aug. 1. In that span, he was one of only 14 players with at least 10 homers. He was tied for fourth with 29 RBIs. Only Bryce Harper (1.9), José Ramírez (1.8) and Aaron Judge (1.7) had more WAR (via FanGraphs) than Schwindel’s mark of 1.6 (tied with three other players).

After his two-hit showing on Monday, Schwindel upped his slash line with the Cubs to .374/.421/.699. The first baseman had a 194 wRC+ since coming to Chicago, indicating that he has performed 94 percent above the Major League average offensively. It’s no wonder he took home the National League’s Rookie of the Month Award for August.

Green was asked if Schwindel’s age -- he is a late bloomer at 29 years old -- has anything to do with the seemingly mature approach in the batter’s box.

“I mean, I was old and in the big leagues and I couldn't do that,” Green quipped. “So, I don't think the age is the prerequisite. Probably, the skillset's the prerequisite to being good. He has, and you can feel it from like throwing batting practice to him when he showed up, he's one of those guys that can put the barrel on the ball wherever it's thrown.”

In the first inning, Schwindel pulled a 1-2 sinker from Sonny Gray into left field for his first hit of the game. That helped set up a three-run homer off the bat of the red-hot Ian Happ. Rookie lefty Justin Steele pitched brilliantly for five frames, but that early lead slipped away when the Reds rallied for a trio of runs in the sixth.

All that did was set the stage for Schwindel again.

Rivas began the eighth with a 10-pitch battle against Lorenzen, who eventually yielded a pinch-hit single to right. A wild pitch allowed Rivas to move up to second, where he watched Schwindel slip into the 0-2 count against the right-hander.

“I generally don’t throw my cutter with two strikes because it’s a contact pitch,” Lorenzen said. “But it’s something I’ve been getting swing-and-miss on. Obviously, the execution wasn’t there.”

Schwindel connected for his latest go-ahead hit, which gave him 11 hits in his last four games. It also added another chapter to a wild week that has helped generate rousing chants from fans who may not have known Schwindel’s name only a few weeks ago.

“It's really impressive,” Green said. “I just want him to keep swinging the bat like he has been. He's done a great job.”