Much like Kris Bryant before him, 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber has had his way with minor league pitching since the day the Cubs signed him. After hitting two homers for Double-A Tennessee on Sunday, he’s sitting at .333/.448/.657 with nine homers in 108 at-bats for the season. His career line of .341/.434/.641 in 370 at-bats is nearly a match for Bryant’s .327/.426/.667 line.
Meanwhile, Cubs left fielders have hit .217/.283/.370 in 138 at-bats this season. It’s not a total disaster, but it’s certainly not good. Most of the playing time has gone to Chris Coghlan, who has hit .194/.269/.370 overall. Chris Denorfia was expected to be his platoonmate, but he’s been hurt.
Given that the Cubs are all in, having already called on Bryant and Addison Russell, there’s going to be some point at which it might make sense to add the 22-year-old Schwarber to the mix. One slightly complicating factor: Schwarber isn’t currently a left fielder.
While Schwarber played 36 games in left (and 20 behind the plate) after being selected out of Indiana last year, the Cubs recommitted to him as a catcher over the winter. All of his starts this year have come behind the plate (21) or at DH (eight). He hasn’t excelled defensively — he’s given up 35 steals in 42 attempts over the course of 21 games — but neither has he been such a failure to cause the Cubs to doubt their decision.
The Cubs, though, did pick up Miguel Montero over the winter, committing $40 million to him through 2017. He’s been terrific this year, and there’s every reason to think he’ll be a solid starter through the end of his contract. The Cubs could always trade him when they think Schwarber is ready to play, but given that Montero is a better defender now than Schwarber is ever likely to become, there’s still a good chance Schwarber is going to end up in left field anyway. Unless someone else steps up, it might as well be sooner, rather than later.
Jon Lester allowed nine hits but yielded only one earned run Saturday at Wrigley Field as the Cubs defeated the visiting Pirates by a score of 4-1.
That’s now six straight victories for Chicago — the longest current winning streak in the major leagues.
Lester was a little shaky in his four starts with the Cubs, but the $155 million left-hander has found a groove as the weather has begun to warm. Since the first of May, Lester owns a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings.
Anthony Rizzo, meanwhile, continues to emerge as one of the very best hitters in baseball. He went 2-for-3 with a stolen base and an RBI on Saturday afternoon, and the 25-year-old first baseman is now batting .349/.469/.612 over 161 plate appearances.
With the Cardinals losing Saturday to the Tigers, the Cubs are only three games back of first place.
Your box scores and recaps from Saturday …
Braves 5, Marlins 3
Rays 4, Twins 6
Tigers 4, Cardinals 3 (10 innings)
Pirates 1, Cubs 4
Angels 6, Orioles 1
Diamondbacks 5, Phillies 7
Yankees 5, Royals 1
Giants 11, Reds 2
Blue Jays 5, Astros 6
Brewers 1, Mets 14
Indians 10, Rangers 8
Nationals 4, Padres 1
White Sox 4, Athletics 3
Red Sox 4, Mariners 2
Rockies 7, Dodgers 1
Travis Wood earned his first career save on Saturday, closing out the Cubs’ 4-1 win against the Pirates. Bruce Miles of the Chicago Daily Herald reports that the Cubs intend to keep Wood, who has struggled as a starter, in the bullpen. The Cubs will discuss their plans for the rotation on Sunday. Miles suggests Tsuyoshi Wada will most likely take Wood’s rotation spot.
Wada has been pitching at Triple-A Iowa, where he has compiled a 2.86 ERA with a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 34 2/3 innings. He made 13 starts at the big league level last year, finishing with a 3.25 ERA and a 57/19 K/BB ratio in 69 1/3 innings.
The Pirates found one of the more embarrassing ways to lose on Friday afternoon against the Cubs. After falling behind 7-1 after five innings, the Pirates rallied for four runs in each of the sixth and eight innings before tying the game at 10-10 in the ninth inning. A win after all of that work sure would have felt nice for the Buccos.
Reliever Radhames Liz started the 12th inning and quickly got the first out with a strikeout of Kris Bryant. But he walked Starlin Castro, then allowed a single to Miguel Montero, which sent Castro to third base. Liz intentionally loaded the bases by intentionally walking Jorge Soler to bring up Matt Szczur. Szczur sent a fly ball to Gregory Polanco in shallow right field. Polanco, coming in, stumbled and slipped, allowing the fly ball to drop and send the winning run home for an 11-10 Cubs victory.
It was, uh, not pretty. Sadly, it erases the great play Polanco made to save the Pirates’ bacon in the 10th inning when he made a catch in shallow right field then threw out Castro at the plate for an inning-ending double play.