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Klaus: Kyle Schwarber’s return bolsters Cubs

| Friday, October 28, 2016

After being shutout in Game 1 of the World Series, the Chicago Cubs evened the Fall Classic on Wednesday night in Cleveland with a 5-1 victory over the Indians.

Undeterred by a lack of command early on, Jake Arrieta put the Cubs in an exceptional spot, giving up just one run over 5 2/3 innings pitched. On the offensive side, the Cubs, despite going only 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, opened up a 5-run lead in the fifth and never looked back, with two of those critical hits with runners in scoring position coming from the bat of the rehabilitated and seemingly divine Kyle Schwarber.

Without trying to unnecessarily add to the Cubs buoyancy rhetoric that is (of course) currently rampant, it is imperative that every baseball fan that has not taken note of Schwarber to feel obligated to do so. What Schwarber has been able to accomplish over the past week is both unprecedented and perhaps irreplaceable.

For those unfamiliar with Schwarber’s season, it has been one full of frustrating circumstances and perseverance. In just the third game of the season, Schwarber was injured in an outfield collision that resulted in full tears of both the LCL and UCL in his left knee. In a season where the first-place Cubs have been fortunate enough to avoid lengthy injuries, Schwarber, already the Cubs postseason leader in home runs after less than a full season of MLB experience, was the one what-if that Cubs fans had to dwell on as the Cubs entered the postseason with a predominantly healthy roster. 

While Schwarber’s presence was felt in the dugout of Cubs home games and scouting report meetings throughout the season, it was hard not to feel bad for someone who appeared to work as hard as possible to somehow have a tangible impact on a historic Cubs season.

Well, that opportunity for tangible impact finally came on Monday night. After being medically cleared to hit just one week before and going 1-for-6 in a pair of Arizona Fall League games over the weekend, Schwarber was inserted right in the middle of the Cubs order and responded in impressive fashion.

He swiftly became the first player to ever record his first hit of the season in a World Series game by blasting a double that narrowly missed being a home run and later became just the second left handed hitter to work a walk this year against baseball’s undisputed top reliever, Andrew Miller. And Schwarber was far from finished — Wednesday night he had two key RBI singles in addition to another walk.

Important members of both organizations — from Cubs president Theo Epstein to Indians manager Terry Francona — have spoken in awe of Schwarber’s ability to return in apparent mid-season form after not seeing MLB pitching for over half a year in wake of an injury that left the most pessimistic Cubs fans wondering if he would ever be able to match the excitement he brought to the club in his rookie season. Whether you are a Cubs fan, a bandwagon fan or even someone who hopes that the longest drought in American sports remains pervasive, it is obligatory to both credit Schwarber for doing the unthinkable and watch in awe as he makes a unique impact that might never be replicated.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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