Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber on long-running offensive slump: ‘I’m over it’

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Hey, did you hear the big news out of Thursday’s 13-10 Reds victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field?

No, not the nine-spot the Reds hung on Cubs starter Jon Lester for a preposterous 9-0 second-inning lead. Not the fact that Lester, perhaps the Cubs’ most important pitcher, was escorted off the field by a team trainer. Not the four-homer fourth inning with which the Cubs responded, their first one of those since 2008. Not the embarrassing reality of a four-game split at home against the National League Central’s cellar dwellers.

I’m talking about Kyle Schwarber’s lonely single in the bottom of the first inning.

Did it spark a Cubs rally? No. Will it appear on any highlight reel ever? Goodness, no. But here’s what it did do: It got the 24-year-old slugger’s batting average to — for the first time since May 9 — the .200 mark.

Two more hits, including Schwarber’s 20th home run of the season, even pushed him over the Mendoza Line with a tiny bit of wiggle room.

Gracias a Dios!

“It’s been a long time,” Schwarber said this week, “a lot longer than I ever would’ve expected.”

No one could’ve expected how severely Schwarber would struggle in his first full season in the big leagues. He hit .204 in April, .120 in May and .196 for the first three weeks of June — until the Cubs wisely, if belatedly, sent him down to Class AAA Iowa.

The season has, at times, been hell on Schwarber and might’ve broken a lesser player’s spirit, but the demotion put fire in his eyes.

“I was mad about it because I did it to myself,” he said. “I’m not that type of player.”

Schwarber hit .343 with four home runs in 11 games at Iowa. Since rejoining the Cubs six weeks ago, he’s hitting .278 — not a thing wrong with that — and the rest of the numbers more than hold up to scrutiny, too. But let’s box them up and stick them deep on a high shelf for now. Schwarber doesn’t want to hear about his numbers anymore, and why should he?

“I’m fine now,” he said. “I can’t be worried about what the board says, and I’m not.”

Not even a little bit?

“Nope,” he said. “I’m over it.”

On to the rest of this week’s One Through Nine:

2. Cincinnati 13, Chicago 10? A sick, twisted joke of a score if you’re the playoff-minded Cubs — but a moral victory if the Bears end that way against the Bengals in December. (Come on, I kid.)

3. Lester’s first truly terrible outing as a Cubs starting pitcher came in August of 2015, when he failed to get out of the third inning against the Tigers. He responded by coming one out short of a perfect game in his next start.

Three times in 2016, Lester lasted three innings or less. After the first dud, he ripped off five straight victories. After the other two — which came back-to-back to begin July — he went 5-0, with the Cubs winning in seven straight of his starts.

Even after last month’s debacle against the Pirates, when he failed to get out of the first inning, Lester rallied with victories in his next three starts.

If Lester didn’t injure himself Thursday — a big “if” — then he ought to be able to bounce back with some success.

4. On the same day Schwarber belted home run No. 20 of the season, Javy Baez crushed his 19th and Ian Happ sent his 16th and 17th over the wall. That puts the Cubs in strong position to have six players reach at least 20 homers for the first time in club history. Anthony Rizzo (28), Kris Bryant (23) and Willson Contreras (21) have already pulled their weight.

5. Is Jon Jay the Cubs’ best bet in the leadoff spot? A few days ago, it was looking that way — but then he went 0-for-8 in his last two starts, batting first in both, against the lowly Reds.

“I feel comfortable in every spot,” he said.

For what it’s worth.

6. Is it wrong to have a growing obsession with White Sox newcomer Nicky Delmonico, who — a little over two weeks into his big-league career — has raked to the tune of a .396 average? Asking for a friend.

7. Sox shortstop Tim Anderson finally has gotten it going at the plate, proving it’s never too late. OK, sometimes it’s too late. But in Anderson’s case, no, a thousand times no, it isn’t too late. His critics should repeat until they’re blue in the face or they pass out from exhaustion, whichever comes first: He’s only 24.

8. The quote of the week, on Jay, courtesy of Cubs manager Joe Maddon: “He has definitely stirred our drink.”

9. Well, look who’s coming to Wrigley this weekend: the Blue Jays. More specifically, a Toronto catcher by the name of — let me make sure I have this right — Miguel Montero. Remember him? Jake Arrieta, Friday’s Cubs starter, does, too.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.


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