The crack off Kyle Schwarber’s bat made it perfectly clear that the Chicago Cubs meant business in their 4-0 Wednesday night Wild Card game victory the Pirates.
His 449-foot home run sailed over the right field seats, completing a dramatic turnaround for Schwarber. A year ago, the Cubs sent Schwarber to the Instructional League.
Schwarber and Dexter Fowler, the top two hitters in Wednesday’s Cubs lineup had five of the team’s six hits with the remainder of the team batting 2-for-32, good for a .062 batting average.
Coming into this game, Jake Arrieta [1-0] was the story and he did not disappoint, striking out 10 batters, the highest total ever by a Cubs pitcher in their playoff debut.
Though fans tried to rattle early in the game, the Cubs ace was not intimidated.
Cole however allowed a Fowler single to lead off the game and he stole second base. Schwarber’s single drove him in and lowered the volume of the largest crowd ever at 40,889 fans.
Schwarber’s two-run home run came in the third inning and Fowler hit a solo homer of his own two innings later.
All of these runs were scored off Gerrit Cole [0-1], who pitched five innings although there was bullpen activity during a couple stretches of this appearance.
The Pirates had their best chance of scoring in the sixth inning, when they loaded the bases. Pinch-hitter Travis Snider led off the inning with a single and Josh Harrison was hit by a pitch with one out. This was followed by Andrew McCutchen reaching on an Addison Russell fielding error. Starling Marte then took 1-0 sinker and it was grounded into a double play. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo pumped his fist and yelled after catching the ball to secure the double play.
Arrieta was hit by a Tony Watson pitch in the top of the seventh inning. Arrieta hit two Pirates earlier in the game and this action cleared both benches. Sean Rodriguez was ejected from the contest for his actions during the sequence.
Rodriguez, was a part of the Pirates lineup to begin the game, much to the surprise of many fans, however manager Clint Hurdle wanted his best defense in the field and elected to place Pedro Alvarez on the bench. Alvarez replaced Rodriguez as a pinch-hitter in the third inning, with the Pirates down three runs at the time. Alvarez was 0-for-3 at the plate with three strikeouts.
The Pirates season ends after being held to four hits. Also ending are the playing careers of both A.J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez.
With this victory, the Cubs advance to the NL Division Series, where they will face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Photo credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images