CHICAGO -- Friday morning started on a down note for the Cubs, when Chicago found out manager David Ross and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer had tested positive for COVID-19.
No other players or coaches were put into isolation after contact tracing and testing was conducted, but knowing that the virus had reached two important members of the organization put a damper on Friday afternoon’s matchup with the Pirates.
“We're going to go out and compete to win baseball games,” interim manager Andy Green said pregame. “We'll do our part to minimize it, and we're going to still keep this a real positive, fun atmosphere.”
Fortunately for the Cubs, the first two hitters in their lineup brought the energy and positivity. Michael Hermosillo and Frank Schwindel -- batting leadoff and second, respectively -- kicked off the bottom of the first with back-to-back base knocks, and by the end of the matchup, the duo had recorded three hits apiece and powered Chicago to a 6-5 win over Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field.
After being named the National League Rookie of the Month for August, Schwindel has pretty much locked himself in as the Cubs’ first baseman for the rest of the season. Hermosillo, on the other hand, hasn’t yet become a starting outfielder, but Chicago has taken to running him out there against opposing lefties.
With 30 days remaining in the season, though, it hasn’t yet become a given that either Schwindel or Hermosillo will secure an everyday spot for the Cubs in 2022. If it comes down to it, both players can point to their performances against the Pirates as prime examples of what they can do when given the opportunity.
Hermosillo was the early-innings hero, leading off the bottom of the first with a double and giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the second after Alec Mills bunted runners into scoring position. In the fourth, Hermosillo finally had his Wrigley Field moment, hitting a mammoth home run over the left-field bleachers.
That solo shot gave Hermosillo the first three-hit game of his Major League career, and it also marked his first dinger at the ballpark he visited plenty of times growing up a Cubs fan in Ottawa, Ill.
“It was fun. It was really good to see Mike get going,” Green said. “He's had some big hits for us since he's been here, but he strung a number of really good at-bats together today.”
“Obviously, what Herm did today was pretty awesome,” Mills said. “He was locked in all day, and I'm going to give him that chance every time, put runners in scoring position for him.”
Schwindel put the Cubs ahead to stay with a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the sixth, breaking a 5-all tie after the Pirates scored three in the top of the frame. That followed singles in the first and second innings for Schwindel, who’s homered in four of his past five games and has hit safely in 25 of his 30 games with Chicago.
“Frank's [the] National League Rookie of the Month. He's been doing it for a while for us now,” said Green, who was ejected for arguing a slide at second base by Pittsburgh’s Kevin Newman in the top of the sixth.
The final month of Chicago’s season will feature 2022 auditions for plenty of players on the roster.
Schwindel’s performance since being called up on July 30 -- he’s hit .345 in just over a month with the Cubs -- has him squarely in the discussion for next year’s starting lineup, and if Hermosillo can continue to produce the way he did Friday, he could find himself right alongside Schwindel in 2022.
“I think these guys are coming up and know that you don't prove your worth in the Major Leagues inside a day, inside a week, inside a month. You've got to keep doing it again and again and again,” Green said. “The guys that they've kind of replaced on the diamond had done it for a lot of years to earn that reputation, so those guys are really hungry.
“They've been really, really good at doing everything that's been asked of them.”