CLEVELAND -- Even if this hadn't been the building in which the Cubs enjoyed a champagne celebration 108 years in the making back in 2016, Progressive Field would rate as a pretty special place for Kyle Schwarber.It's the ballpark where Schwarber notched his first big league hit and his first
CLEVELAND -- Even if this hadn't been the building in which the Cubs enjoyed a champagne celebration 108 years in the making back in 2016, Progressive Field would rate as a pretty special place for Kyle Schwarber.
It's the ballpark where Schwarber notched his first big league hit and his first home run in 2015. It's the ballpark where he returned from a torn ACL to serve as the Cubs' dynamo DH in that fascinating '16 Fall Classic. And on Tuesday night, it was the ballpark where his two home runs keyed a dinger derby off Tribe starter Josh Tomlin in a 10-3 victory. As a steady rain fell on the Indians and Cubs, conjuring up memories of the last time they had met on this field, Schwarber, who came in swinging a hot bat, brought the thunder and lightning with his fifth and sixth homers of the young season.
"He's from Ohio, right?" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Schwarber. "Obviously, he sees the ball well here. The first time he showed up it was his premiere. That was all adrenaline. The World Series was adrenaline. And right now he's been swinging the bat well. So he shows up in Cleveland at the right times."
At 117.1 mph, Schwarber's solo shot on a 2-1 offering from Tomlin in the second inning had the fifth-highest exit velocity of any home run tracked by Statcast™ so far in 2018. In fact, Schwarber's blast into the right-field seats was the hardest hit of any kind by a Cubs player since Statcast™ began tracking in '15. He broke his own club record for hardest homer set with a 114.3-mph shot last Sept. 19.
"I hit it right on a good spot on a changeup there," Schwarber said. "I was able to put a good swing on it."
Schwarber's second homer, leading off the fourth inning, was of the high, arching variety, but it was still a prodigious 407-foot poke that gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead.
Backing a solid effort from Tyler Chatwood, who earned his first victory as a Cub, the North Siders had runs aplenty in this ballgame, with Willson Contreras and Ian Happ also going deep off Tomlin to knock him out before the end of the fourth. But it was Schwarber's success that stood out in this season in which his slimmed-down body and need for a bounceback bat have been such narrative focal points.
If you're scoring at home, Schwarber has made this place his home. He's played just seven career games at Progressive Field, counting the World Series, and he's gone 15-for-30 with three homers, a double, a triple and three walks in that small sample.
"I always thought this was a good park to hit in," Schwarber said. "I guess I just hit well here. I don't know."
But the Middletown native doesn't need to return to his Buckeye roots to rip hits these days. Schwarber came into this two-game set with hits in 12 of his previous 29 at-bats, raising his season average from .172 to .293 in the process and inspiring hope that he can have the kind of offensive impact he provided in his rousing rookie year -- a year in which Progressive Field served as his personal launching pad.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The fifth inning has been quite a bugaboo for Cubs pitchers this season. The 11.84 fifth-inning ERA they took into Tuesday's tilt was by far the highest in the big leagues, and it's a big reason why Cubs starters have had so much trouble going deep into ballgames (they entered averaging just 5.12 innings per start).
So when Chatwood, staked to a 5-1 lead, surrendered a leadoff walk to Roberto Perez in the fifth inning (one of five walks allowed by Chatwood on this night), it looked like a sticky situation. But Chatwood got Bradley Zimmer and Rajai Davis to strike out in succession, then got Francisco Lindor to ground out to escape the inning unscathed. He would go on to face just one batter in the seventh (a Tyler Naquin single), but he became the first Cubs starter this season to pitch into the seventh.
"I don't feel like I was very sharp," Chatwood said. "Obviously, I need to clean up my walks still. But I was able to battle and keep us in the game. I guess you can't complain anytime you win a game."
The Cubs' 48 runs in innings seven through nine this season are the most of any National League club.
HE SAID IT
"We're still in that mode of utilizing the whole field. I hope that doesn't end until 2019 Spring Training and we can work on it again, because this is the approach we're looking for." -- Maddon, on a Cubs lineup that has scored 19 runs over the past two games
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Davis didn't get to the Cubs this time. When the Indians' left fielder, who hit the game-tying homer in Game 7 in 2016, tried to score from second on a Jose Ramirez single to right field with two outs in the third, right fielder Jason Heyward made a great throw to Contreras, who applied the tag as Davis slid across the plate headfirst. The Indians challenged the call that Davis was out, but the call stood following a replay review.
The Cubs also won a challenge in the second inning when Naquin was ruled safe after a Chatwood pickoff attempt. The call was overturned upon replay review for the third out of the inning.
The Cubs wrap their brief return to Progressive Field with Wednesday's 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Indians. Jonathan Lester will return to the scene where he was last seen throwing three relief innings in an epic Game 7, opposing Trevor Bauer. The Cubs are hoping Kristopher Bryant, who was held out of the starting lineup Tuesday night after getting hit in the head by a pitch Sunday in Colorado, will be back at third base.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.