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Zo' HBP flap: A sign of the apocalypse?

Mild-mannered vet involved in two ump disputes recently; Schwarber boasts impressive streak
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist may be the most mild-mannered of all the players who manager Joe Maddon has known. So, for Zobrist to get involved in two disputed plays in a short amount of time -- and nearly get ejected -- is rare.

In the ninth inning on Wednesday night against the Reds with the game tied at 6, the Cubs had runners at first and second and nobody out. Zobrist trotted to first because he was hit by a pitch, but first base umpire Chris Conroy said the veteran had shown bunt and fouled the pitch off. Maddon argued the call, and was ejected. Zobrist grounded out to advance the runners and the Cubs scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch by the Reds' Blake Wood.

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CHICAGO -- Ben Zobrist may be the most mild-mannered of all the players who manager Joe Maddon has known. So, for Zobrist to get involved in two disputed plays in a short amount of time -- and nearly get ejected -- is rare.

In the ninth inning on Wednesday night against the Reds with the game tied at 6, the Cubs had runners at first and second and nobody out. Zobrist trotted to first because he was hit by a pitch, but first base umpire Chris Conroy said the veteran had shown bunt and fouled the pitch off. Maddon argued the call, and was ejected. Zobrist grounded out to advance the runners and the Cubs scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch by the Reds' Blake Wood.

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Video: CIN@CHC: Maddon ejected after Zobrist HBP reversed

Last Saturday against the D-backs, Zobrist was called out on a questionable strike to end the game, which the Cubs lost.

Would Maddon have been surprised to see Zobrist get tossed?

"This would've been really good because he would've had contrived anger after the fact," Maddon said. "Had the game continued, I believe something may have occurred that we've never seen before. We have the eclipse coming up on Monday? You've got Zobrist arguing with an umpire and [me] getting kicked out and then an eclipse within three or four days -- that's when you worry about the apocalypse, at that point."

Maddon and Zobrist were together in Tampa Bay, so the manager knows his player's temperament well.

"It keeps happening to 'Zo' of all people," Maddon said. "If any player does not deserve that kind of inequities, it's him. I really believe if that if I had not [argued the call and been ejected] and the game had ended differently, you might have seen Zo's first ejection, he was that upset."

Video: CIN@CHC: Maddon discusses call on Zobrist's at-bat

Worth noting

Kyle Schwarber has reached base safely in eight straight plate appearances heading into Thursday's game. He had struck out in his previous eight plate appearances.

Maddon says he's to blame for the strikeouts because he started Schwarber against D-backs' lefty Patrick Corbin on Saturday. Schwarber struck out four times that game.

"Part of the negatives were the fact that I put him up against the wrong pitcher," Maddon said. "Watching the last couple days, it looks like things are getting shorter [with his swing], the movement is getting shorter, he's making better decisions. It'd be great if we could keep him in that two-slot. I like what that looks like right now."

Schwarber is not your typical No. 2 hitter, but the Cubs also have had Kris Bryant in that spot in the lineup.

"I'd much rather have somebody [in the No. 2 spot] who is really good to drive the baseball, drive in runs," Maddon said.

It helps that Schwarber will take his walks and is a good baserunner. In 14 games this month, Schwarber was batting .278 with a .422 on-base percentage.

"I just have a lot of faith in the guy," Maddon said.

• Reliever Koji Uehara will throw a second bullpen session either Friday or Saturday, depending on how the right-hander feels. He threw his first bullpen since going on the disabled list on Wednesday. Uehara has been on the disabled list since Aug. 8 with a neck strain.

Anthony Rizzo's grand slam in the first inning Wednesday marked the third time in franchise history the Cubs cleanup hitter did so in the first with no outs. He joined Hank Lieber (Sept. 12, 1939) and Bob O'Farrell (June 14, 1923). It was Rizzo's third career grand slam and his first since Sept. 4, 2015. He's hit all three at Wrigley Field.

Video: CIN@CHC: Rizzo goes opposite field for a grand slam

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

Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist