The Cubs’ offensive woes continued in a 4-0 loss to the Twins Sunday night at Wrigley Field, but the biggest story of the game was Kyle Schwarber being pulled from left field after the second inning.
The ostensible reason was this play [VIDEO].
Jake Cave of the Twins sent a ball into the left-field corner and Schwarber appeared to not run fast after it. Cave eventually scored to make the score 2-0 and Schwarber was replaced by Cameron Maybin after the second inning.
Cubs manager David Ross was interviewed live on the ESPN broadcast — these interviews happen all the time and this was scheduled — and said when asked about Schwarber, “He’s fine.”
After the game, Ross didn’t have much more to say:
Asked about pulling Kyle Schwarber, Cubs manager David Ross said he would like to keep that "in-house." Would not get into specifics.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 21, 2020
But it was clear exactly why it happened:
Schwarber owns up to the play in left field in the 2nd inning. Didn't get into conversation with Ross, but said Cave should not have reached third base. Said he put Yu Darvish in a tough spot and it wasn't acceptable.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 21, 2020
Kyle Schwarber said he took a moment to collect himself, but then felt it was important to stay in dugout and cheer on his team. Didn't want to be selfish.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 21, 2020
"It's bigger than me," Schwarber said.
This is the kind of teammate Schwarber is:
Happ, on Schwarber staying in dugout after being pulled:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 21, 2020
"To see him out there in the dugout throughout the game -- probably the loudest guy in the dugout, honestly, for the next seven, eight innings -- it just speaks to his character. He's a great person and we all love him."
All of what’s posted above is true. Schwarber’s work ethic has never been questioned, you all know how hard he worked to get back in 2016 and play in the World Series. This was clearly a blip in what’s been a good career, though Schwarber’s offense has slid this year to the point he likely needed a break anyway — he is currently in a 3-for-46 slump and overall is hitting just .190/.306/.393.
Ross, too, made an important statement, and not just by benching Schwarber for the rest of Sunday’s game. In saying he wanted to keep things “in-house,” he didn’t throw his player under the bus publicly. That’s exactly the right thing to do for a baseball manager.
About the rest of this game, the less said the better. Yu Darvish pitched better than his line (six innings, nine hits, four runs) indicates. He strugged a bit in the first inning when the Twins scored their first run of the game, but settled down and struck out nine overall. Maybe that second run doesn’t score if Schwarber is able to hold Cave at second base on that hit in the second inning.
It was still just 2-0 in the seventh when Darvish allowed a double to deep center that Ian Happ couldn’t play and then a long home run to Max Kepler. Darvish had thrown 90 pitches entering the seventh and it wasn’t unreasonable to send him back out there, it just didn’t work out. The four-run outing, the most runs Darvish has allowed in a game since September 17, 2019, probably ends his Cy Young candidacy, though he’ll likely get some downballot votes.
The bullpen, at least, did a good job Sunday, keeping the game close with three scoreless innings from Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam and Andrew Chafin. The latter was making his Cubs debut.
The Cubs had a slim chance to get back in this game in the ninth inning, when they loaded the bases without a hit. With one out, Willson Contreras struck out but reached base on a passed ball. One out later Jason Heyward was hit by a pitch and Victor Caratini walked.
Nico Hoerner was the next scheduled hitter. Personally, I would have sent David Bote up to bat — Bote seems to thrive on situations like that and Hoerner was 8-for-38 over his previous 17 games.
But there Nico was, and he struck out to end the game.
The Cubs offense is a real concern. They scored just two runs and had only 12 hits in the entire three-game series against Minnesota. This has been a hallmark of the Cubs since at least 2016. You certainly recall they stopped hitting at times during that great year, even during the World Series when they got shut out in consecutive games — then suddenly started hitting again. It would be nice if they did that right now, too.
A curiosity: This was the Twins’ first appearance on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball in more than 10 years, since August 22, 2010. They won that game 4-0, too.
All three teams chasing the Cubs in the NL Central won Sunday, so the Cubs now lead the Cardinals by 3½ games and the Reds and Brewers by 4½. I’ll have a separate article on the playoff seedings and schedules coming up later Monday, but for now the Cubs head to Pittsburgh for a four-game series beginning Monday evening. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and JT Brubaker gets the call for the Pirates. Game time is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.