Wisdom's smash lifts Cubs in twin-bill opener

August 25th, 2021

CHICAGO -- gave a little hop, dropped his bat and began his trek around the bases after the ball he launched on Wednesday afternoon landed on Waveland Ave.

Wisdom's go-ahead three-run blast in the fifth inning of Game 1 of a seven-inning doubleheader helped propel the Cubs to a 5-2 win over the Rockies. The shot that soared over left field and sailed out of Wrigley Field also continued what has been a feelgood story within a trying season.

Wisdom is finally getting his chance to prove he belongs in the Major Leagues. And the elder rookie has been providing the kind of power that could keep him in Chicago's 2022 plans.

"I think you have these stigmas," Cubs manager David Ross said, "that we put on guys that are older, that come from Triple-A. It's like, 'Well, it's not going to last. It's not going to last. It's not going to last.' Seeing some guys prove that wrong is fun for me."

Ross called that aspect of this Cubs season "rewarding," even as the losses piled up in the second half and the franchise shifted into evaluation mode for 2022 and beyond. The manager has enjoyed giving players like Wisdom, Rafael Ortega, Frank Schwindel and others an opportunity that would not have arrived for them under different circumstances.

As it happened, it was Schwindel who got the decisive rally in Wednesday's twin-bill opener going. The 29-year-old first baseman -- called up from Triple-A Iowa in the wake of Anthony Rizzo being traded to the Yankees on July 30 -- pulled an Austin Gomber pitch into the left-field corner for a two-out triple.

Veteran Matt Duffy followed with a walk, setting the stage for Wisdom. The 29-year-old slugger received a 1-1 slider from Gomber that broke over the plate and in, and Wisdom did not miss. He launched it a projected 438 feet, per Statcast, to snap the game's 2-2 deadlock.

“That's a big home run for us to win the ballgame,” Ross said. “The at-bats that led up to that played a really big part.”

The home run was the third of the game for the Cubs -- David Bote and Austin Romine also went deep off Gomber -- and the 21st of the season for Wisdom. That leads National League rookies and is one shy of pulling Wisdom into a tie with Javier Báez (now with the Mets) for Chicago's team lead.

Wisdom’s performance has also thrust him into the National League Rookie of the Year Award conversation. Cincinnati’s Jonathan India (.848 OPS and 129 wRC+ through 116 games) is the current favorite for that accolade -- especially given the Reds’ surge since he was installed in the leadoff spot -- but Wisdom could wind up garnering votes.

“If I really had to vote, I'd vote for my guy,” Ross said. “If it was actually mine, I'd vote for Patrick every day of the week.”

Ross does not have a vote -- those go to members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America -- so the manager allowed himself to be a realist.

“I haven't followed everybody,” Ross said. “But I probably would put him right behind Jonathan India from my standpoint. I think India's had a really nice season with Cincinnati. He's taken off at the top of the lineup.”

And while the Cubs are not in a playoff chase like the Reds, Wisdom has done damage in the middle of Chicago's order.

The Marquee Sports Network’s broadcast pointed out that Wisdom ranked fourth in the Majors with a .934 slugging percentage on balls in play (minimum 100), trailing Shohei Ohtani (.982), Mike Zunino (.960) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (.953), entering Wednesday. Wisdom also came into the day with a rate of 11.8 at-bats per home run, which ranks seventh in MLB among players with at least 200 plate appearances.

Wisdom has manned all four corners -- infield and outfield -- and his showing in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader gave him a .548 slugging percentage and a .864 OPS through 79 games this season. With his 30th birthday looming Friday, 427 Triple-A games under his belt and parts of four seasons with at least a taste of the Majors, Wisdom is not the typical rookie.

“It's been awesome,” said Cubs starter Zach Davies, who worked 4 2/3 innings in Game 1. “He’s finally getting that extended opportunity to prove that he's a big league player. That guy in the lineup, you know at any moment, can change the game.”