PHILADELPHIA -- It's not often that a home run by a visiting player -- in Philadelphia of all places -- elicits an ovation loud enough to drown out the boos of the home fans.
Then again, it's not often that a group of fans sitting behind the visitor's dugout sport custom T-shirts with a player's face plastered on them, and his moniker scrawled underneath.
That was the case on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, however, as New Jersey native Frank Schwindel collected a pair of hits -- including a two-run homer -- in the Cubs' 6-5 walk-off loss against the Phillies. Matt Duffy hit a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth, but the Cubs allowed the winning run to race home on a passed ball in the bottom half.
With more than 50 family and friends sitting behind the third-base dugout, Schwindel crossed home plate to chants of "Frank the Tank" following his two-run shot in the top of the fifth. Five of Schwindel's high school friends even had custom "Frank the Tank" T-shirts that, together, spelled out "T-A-N-K-!" on the back.
"It's always fun when Frankie comes in the dugout after a home run, I'll say that,” manager David Ross said. “He's always coming in with a lot of energy and pretty proud of himself when he comes in, and it shows. There's a big smile on his face. He's got a lot of people here, a lot of supporters who were loud tonight on that home run.”
Schwindel, who grew up approximately an hour and a half northeast of Philadelphia in Livingston, N.J., continued to give Cubs fans -- both in attendance and at home -- reason to cheer on Wednesday. His fifth-inning homer came after he had already ripped a double in the first inning, giving him 24 extra-base hits in 39 games with the Cubs. Only Bryce Harper, who had a double of his own against the Cubs, has more extra-base hits (30) among NL hitters since the start of August.
Though Schwindel enjoyed his animated walk back to the dugout after crossing home plate, Chicago starter Alec Mills had a much different emotion on his walk back to the dugout one inning earlier.
After cruising through two perfect innings to begin the night, Mills came away unscathed in the third despite putting two runners in scoring position with only one out. He wasn't as fortunate in the fourth, when Harper hit a leadoff double before later scoring on a double-play ball. Mills then issued a two-out walk and served up a two-run homer to Freddy Galvis.
Mills allowed another leadoff double in the fifth -- this one to opposing starter Ranger Suárez. Though he retired the next two batters, Mills was lifted after intentionally walking Harper. Then reliever Scott Effross allowed an RBI single to J.T. Realmuto before ending the frame.
“Obviously, looking back I was not very pleased with how I handled it,” said Mills, who shook his head as he walked off the mound. “But at the same time, I'm a competitor and I want to stay out there. I thought I had a real good chance at getting [Realmuto] out. ... Obviously, I wish I could take back how I handled it, but I think just being competitive, that's one thing I take a lot of pride in. I also take a lot of pride in getting as far into games as I can. I guess I wish I could change some things about that start."
As for Mills’ reaction to being pulled, Ross didn’t seem to take any exception.
“None of them like it when I come out and take the ball from them, I'll tell you that,” Ross said.
It’s a similar competitive fire that has made Schwindel a fan favorite in his brief time with the Cubs. With his latest two-hit performance, the 29-year-old first baseman is slashing .362/.409/.684 (1.093 OPS) through his first 40 games with Chicago.
In doing so, Schwindel joined Hank Sauer as the only players in franchise history with at least 12 homers and a 1.050 OPS in their first 40 games with the organization. Sauer hit 15 homers to go with a 1.117 OPS in his first 40 games after being acquired from the Reds during the 1949 season. He went on to win the 1952 NL MVP Award and hit 198 homers over parts of seven seasons on the North Side of Chicago.
Speaking of the North Side, Schwindel's contingent once again made the Cubs feel at home in Philadelphia when it overpowered the boos in the eighth inning following Robinson Chirinos’ game-tying two-run homer. It was less successful at drowning out the Phillies faithfuls' growing displeasure in the ninth, when -- after the Phils regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth -- Duffy hit another game-tying shot.
The trio of homers all went for naught when Trevor Megill's two-out breaking ball deflected off Chirinos' glove in the bottom of the ninth, allowing Andrew Knapp to race home from third.
Though it obviously would have meant more in a victory, Schwindel’s latest home run continued to propel his case for a potential roster spot on the 2022 club.
“It definitely stands out when he hits them,” Ross said, “but here, and close to home, it's a good moment for him.”