A Cubs player who was playing minor league games a week ago is now the biggest X-factor in the World Series

The World Series will head back to Wrigley Field tied up at one game apiece after the Cubs took Game 2 in Cleveland on Wednesday night, 6-1.

Chicago’s Game 2 win marked their first World Series victory since 1945, and was largely the product of a brilliant effort from Jake Arrieta, who took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning.

But perhaps the biggest story of the World Series thus far has been the hot bat of Kyle Schwarber, who just last week was playing Arizona Fall League baseball and is now producing key RBIs for the Cubs as they inch closer to their first championship since 1908.

Schwarber is just 23, and last season emerged as an offensive juggernaut for the North Siders. This year, though, he collided with Dexter Fowler in the outfield during just the third game of the season, tearing up his knee and missing the entire rest of the season. 

Schwarber was initially expected to be out until spring training next season.

As he rehabbed, the Cubs managed just fine without him. They won an MLB-best 103 games, and reached the World Series with relative ease. But in the days leading up to the World Series, with Schwarber quietly making strides in his recovery in Arizona, Joe Maddon activated him to their 53-man roster. Then he slotted him into the DH position in Cleveland’s AL ballpark. 

During Game 1, Schwarber hit a double off the wall against Corey Kluber that was kept in the park by wind. That marked his first hit of the season, making him the first player to ever record his first hit of the season during the World Series (and against Kluber, no less).

He followed that performance up with an even better one on Tuesday night: a walk, two RBIs on two singles, and a run scored. 

Nobody — probably including Schwarber himself — saw this breakout World Series performance coming. He hadn’t seen Major League pitchers in 200 days, and was playing minor league fall baseball just one week earlier. It’s a terrific story, to be sure. One that legitimately merits the cliché of What Sports Are All About.

The problem is that as the series moves back to Wrigley (a National League ballpark, and thus no DH), he’s unlikely to play. He hasn’t been cleared yet to be play outfield, and, more to the point, he’s simply far too big of a defensive risk. 

During last year’s playoffs, Schwarber hid out in left field but made several costly errors, looking all-around uncomfortable playing outfield. Now, he’s coming off a bad knee injury and hasn’t played outfield since April. Even if the doctors do clear him, it’s unclear whether it’s worth the risk. 

What do you do if you’re Joe Maddon? Cleveland manager Terry Francona has said openly that he’s rolling with a three-man pitching rotation. That means the Cubs will see Kluber for Game 4. Schwarber is hitting as well as anyone on the Cubs.

After Game 2, Schwarber said he didn’t know if he was physically ready to play outfield. That probably means we’ll only see him as a pinch hitter at Wrigley, where the next three games will be held. Still, right now he’s about as good of a pinch hitter as they could ask for. 

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