Schwarber's maturity key to leadoff opportunity

'He's different now,' says Maddon, who applauds slugger's approach

May 18th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- batted in the leadoff spot for a second consecutive game as the Cubs faced the Nationals on Saturday night at Nationals Park. In Friday’s 14-6 win over the Nats, Schwarber led off for the second time this season and found success thanks to three walks and a home run.

He hit a two-run homer on the 13th pitch of an at-bat off of reliever Kyle Barraclough and finished the night 1-for-3 with three runs scored.

Schwarber said batting in the top spot isn't a major adjustment.

“I’m fine with [it],” he said. “It makes no difference in the thought process for me. It’s just going up there and still working quality at-bats. If the walks come, they come. Keep [getting] good quality at-bats is my thing.”

Schwarber has made 41 career starts in the leadoff spot during the regular season, so he has the ability to not allow his position in the lineup to affect his approach. In the end, it’s all about getting the kind of at-bats that help the Cubs’ offense continue to roll.

Schwarber is batting .220 on the season overall, with six homers and 13 RBIs. He ranks second on the team with 23 walks and has improved his on-base percentage to .345.

“For me, I want to get on base and get driven in by these guys, and when there’s guys on base, try to drive them in,” Schwarber said.

With Ben Zobrist on the restricted list due to personal leave, manager Joe Maddon has been experimenting with the leadoff spot and thought Schwarber was a good candidate for the job against the Nationals, even though he struggled in the role earlier in his career.

“I thought coming into this series, it might be a good time to give him another shot at it,” Maddon said. “He had a tough time [in 2017, when he hit .190 in 36 starts at that spot]. He’s different now. The at-bats have gotten better.”

That’s what Maddon saw in Schwarber on Friday. Washington starter Max Scherzer, likely trying to be careful, walked him on four pitches to begin the game.

“It’s not often you see Scherzer start a game with a four-pitch walk,” Maddon said. “I liked [Schwarber’s] approach last night. I liked everything about his setup last night. I thought it was right on.”

Worth noting

• Anthony Rizzo was back in the lineup for a second straight game after missing four due to back tightness. It was career game No. 1,100 for the Cubs’ first baseman.

• Javier Baez needed just one RBI to reach 300 for his career. He was also riding a 15-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues.