Who saw that headline coming a month ago?
Blake DeWitt, who was on the bench for 30 of the Cubs’ previous 31 games this year, homered and scored the winning run.
Carlos Pena, who was hitting .159 and slugging .175 at the end of April, hit a game-tying homer in the ninth.
Kosuke Fukudome, who entered the day in a 2-for-25 slump and had just two RBI in 71 at-bats for the season, delivered the game-winning hit.
And the Cubs did it against the Reds, who have become famous for their late-game heroics, as Francisco Cordero blew a save for the first time this year.
The Cubs ended up winning 3-2 after Pena’s leadoff homer off Cordero and Fukudome’s RBI single. They caught a terrible break with two outs in the ninth, when Jeff Baker’s fly to deep right center took a big bounce off the warning track and jumped into the stands, preventing DeWitt from scoring from first. Fukudome, though, followed that with a liner up the middle, finishing the game.
The most positive development for the Cubs has to be Pena’s power surge. He has three homers in four games after going a month without one.
Because Pena and Fukudome are now playing well enough to hold down regular jobs, the Cubs need to seriously consider demoting Tyler Colvin to Triple-A. Last year’s rookie surprise is batting just .121 after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts today. The Cubs would be better off getting him regular at-bats in the minors and giving him his playing time to Reed Johnson.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.