CLEVELAND -- Kyle Schwarber estimated that he saw about 1,300 pitches from the pitching machine while working out in Arizona. He set it to the nastiest setting available, to try to retrain his eyes to seeing Major League pitching. Of course, there is no setting that can replicate the two-seamer of Corey Kluber or the dominant slider from Andrew Miller.
And yet Schwarber doubled against Kluber in the fourth inning of the Cubs' 6-0 loss in Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field on Tuesday night. Schwarber, who did not have a hit in five regular-season plate appearances, became the first position player to have zero hits in the regular season and then get a hit in the World Series. Then, he worked a walk against Miller in the seventh inning, after Miller had walked just one left-handed hitter between the regular season and postseason.
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"He didn't show any rust, did he?" Miller said. "You hope that somebody like that is either having to cheat for balls or guess or do something. But his first at-bat was really good. Fortunately, I was able to execute some pitches the second time, but I don't think we can write him off as somebody's who's rusty or not ready to play."
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Once Schwarber had been cleared to hit, the Cubs said it was not a difficult decision whether to add him to the roster to serve as their designated hitter in the World Series, despite the fact that he had not played since tearing two ligaments in his left knee on April 7. And it became apparent early in Game 1 that it was the correct decision.
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Schwarber's at-bats passed the eye test from Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Game 1, and he will be their designated hitter again in Game 2.
"It gave me definitely confidence," said Schwarber, whose double off Kluber was nearly a home run. "Those guys are two premier arms, and to feel comfortable at the plate was definitely a plus for me."
It wrapped up a whirlwind 24 hours for Schwarber, who flew to Cleveland on Monday night and came to the stadium to steal a sneak peak of what he was about to go through. A plethora of thoughts and emotions were running through his head during that flight, making it hard to focus, even with a futile attempt to watch the TV show "The Blacklist." Before the game, he was not sure how he would handle his emotions and predicted that he would cry at some point Tuesday, and said he almost did during the national anthem.
"I had the opportunity," Schwarber said. "There was no guarantees going forward, for me to get the news it was great, then all excitement from there."
Although Maddon had floated the idea prior to the game Tuesday of potentially playing Schwarber somewhere in the field, he clarified after the game that Schwarber is not medically cleared to play defense. Schwarber shot down the idea of playing the outfield this series, meaning he will only serve as a pinch-hitter when the series shifts to Chicago.
Schwarber was able to miss six months and return and hit fifth in the World Series.
"I'm impressed, I'm impressed" shortstop Addison Russell said. "His at-bats looked great tonight."
Said catcher David Ross: "I wouldn't have looked that good after that much time off."
"The wind, too, is blowing in, could have been easily a homer on another night," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "It's impressive, but at the same time, he's a hitter and he knows how to hit, so doesn't really surprise us much."