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Schwarber peaking at right time for Cubs

Slugger hits 30th homer as Chicago heads to NLDS next week
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The calendar turns to Oct. 1 on Sunday, and the postseason is right around the corner. It's Kyle Schwarber's favorite time of year.

Dress for October: Get NL Central champs gear

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CHICAGO -- The calendar turns to Oct. 1 on Sunday, and the postseason is right around the corner. It's Kyle Schwarber's favorite time of year.

Dress for October: Get NL Central champs gear

Full Game Coverage

"He loves this time of year," manager Joe Maddon said of the slugger, who drove in four runs, including a pair on his 30th homer, in the Cubs' 9-0 victory Saturday over the Reds.

After watching Schwarber struggle to bat .171 in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, get sent down to Triple-A Iowa and come back in early July and contribute to the Cubs' run to the NL Central title, it's fitting that he would be peaking now. His homer Saturday was his sixth in his last 15 games, and he's batting .318 (14-for-44) in that stretch.

"Having been sent down during the course of the season, things not going his way, give the guy high marks for perseverance," Maddon said. "I think overall, the year has been very successful for him. It's not easy being sent back after all the success he had. I think maybe my expectations I portrayed were too high, and I should've considered that he did not play at all last year."

Video: CIN@CHC: Schwarber drives in two on broken-bat single

Schwarber tore two ligaments in his left knee in the third game of the 2016 season, but he got the go-ahead to play in the World Series as the designated hitter. He's now reached the postseason in each of his three big league seasons, and he has a career .364 average in the playoffs.

"This guy is a big part of our present and future," Maddon said.

"It's been an up-and-down year, and it is what it is," Schwarber said. "I'm happy about [hitting 30 homers], but I'm not too focused about it at all. It's a cool accomplishment. I'm more focused on the bigger picture here, which is the postseason coming up."

Schwarber homered in the second and added a two-run single in the third. With Anthony Rizzo at 32 homers, the Cubs now have two left-handed hitters with 30 each for the first time in franchise history.

"Schwarber has hit 30 in 400 at-bats. He hits homers -- he can do that," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

And Schwarber can't wait for the postseason to start. Game 1 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile is Friday in Washington against the Nationals.

"This is my favorite time of the year," Schwarber said. "This is when things come to the nitty-gritty. This brings out the best in everyone. You saw when we were playing Milwaukee and St. Louis, those were some hard-fought games. It was a playoff atmosphere. We're going to be going into Washington, and it's going to be some hard-fought games, two really good pitching staffs going at it, and two really good offenses and defenses and good bullpens. You're going to be in for a grinder series, and it'll be fun."

How much fun is Schwarber having? He was caught on camera dancing in the Cubs' dugout to "Y-M-C-A" between innings.

Tweet from @Cubs: There's no need to feel down. pic.twitter.com/MA7gbRXd5M

"It's a hit. It's a kids' hit," Schwarber said of the song. "You've got to love it. We're a bunch of kids out there."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber